How to increase Singapore's falling birth rates

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How to increase Singapore's birth rates? Here are some real and useful suggestions from Singaporean mums. Read on to know.

Singapore’s birth rates continue to drop, despite the various measures rolled out by the government over the years, including the baby bonus.

So, just how low are our birth rates now? In 2017, it was at a seven-year low (2018 statistics are not out yet). According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Josephine Teo, Singapore’s total fertility rate (TFR) dropped to 1.16 in 2017.

This is the lowest figure since 2010 (1.15 then), and the second lowest number ever recorded. This is alarming given that to replace a population, a TFR of 2.1 is needed. 

But it gets more concerning. According to Statistica, Singapore has the lowest fertility rate in the world, at 0.83 children per woman. 

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If we are to improve our low birth rates, then every Singaporean woman should be encouraged to have at least three children.

No kids, or just one

The issue is two-pronged: Singaporean women are both choosing not to have children, or stopping at just one. 

According to reports, the number of Singaporean women who stay childless has almost tripled in the past three decades. At the same time, the proportion of married women who have just one child has reportedly almost doubled in the past 20 years.

It’s clear that the current incentives that are available to encourage Singaporeans to have kids, or have more children, are just not enough. So, what will it take to get our fertility rate healthy again, on the premise that to achieve this, Singaporean women should start having at least three children each?

Here we share some of our own ideas, as well as those of theAsianparent readers.  

 

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How to improve Singapore’s dropping birth rates?

29 Ways to improve Singapore’s declining birth rates

1. Improve Grandparent Caregiver Relief: Currently, grandparents helping to care for grand-kids can only claim relief for one child. Given that Singaporean women should have three children each if the birth rate is to be improved, then, Grandparent Caregiver Relief should also increase accordingly. 

2. Reduce the levy for domestic helpers: “This should be compatible with how many children you have. For example, if you have more than four kids, then you should not have to pay the levy at all.” –Rani Kaur, 31

3. More sick children leave: “When kids fall ill, they usually don’t recover in just a day or two. Also, if you have more than one child, it’s likely the other child will also fall ill. As such sick children leave should be at least one week per parent.“– Sumita Menon, 29

4. Modify the Baby Bonus: While what is currently offered is attractive, there’s no added incentive to urge parents to have more than two kids. The current scheme is the same for having either one or two children. Ideally, the bonus should dramatically increase for babies two and three, and drop for baby one and four (and beyond). 

5. Provide proper training for domestic helpers: “The fact remains that when resources are scarce, and when they don’t have much help, women will postpone motherhood. In Singapore, we need to make sure it is affordable to have a child and make sure that our domestic helps are quality and not just quantity. We need to make sure the helpers we bring in are capable of handling children, so we are comfortable to leave our kids with them.” – Siti Haslinah, 35

6. Working Mother’s Child Relief and tax breaks improved: Similar to how the baby bonus can be made more attractive for parents of more than two kids, tax breaks and the Working Mother’s Child Relief subsidy too should peak for those with three children. For example, Hungary has recently announced a host of measures looking to boost the country’s birth rate. Prominent among this is a waiver on personal income tax for women raising at least four children (for the rest of their lives). 

7. Create “alone time” for parents: “Offer two weeks heavily subsidized camps for kids above three years. That way parents are “free” to even consider procreating. Otherwise we are so bogged down with our first child; we can’t even begin to consider the prospects of expanding our brood.” – Lina Lau, 26

8. Ability to employ more domestic helpers: Those families with three children should be allowed to hire three domestic helpers. The current cap is at two helpers per household. 

9. Schools should match their hours with work hours: “One reason that I don’t want children is that I am a career woman. I am not the sort to quit my job if I have kids, and yet I don’t want to leave my child with a maid. So schools should increase their hours to match with work days. Schools shouldn’t start at 7 am, but at 8.30am and they should not end at 2pm but at 6pm. Breakfast, lunch and dinner should be provided at school (either through the canteen or lunch box), as well as a nap time. So when we come home, we will not be bogged down with homework and feeding the kids, but we can spend quality time.” – Tan Li Fern, 30

10. Improve maternity leave: Maternity leave should be an additional one month for every extra child a woman has. For example, four months for first baby (current leave allocation), five months for second baby, six months for third baby. Also, an additional 15 days should be given for multiple births or difficult pregnancies. 

11. SEX: “It all boils down to one simple word. SEX. As a survey suggested, Singaporeans aren’t having enough sex and are still still close-minded about having sex. The parliament should start a campaign to make it fashionable to have sex.” – Simon Lin, 32

12. Improve paternity leave: Paternity leave should be increased to one month for the second baby, and two months for the third baby. 

13. Educate our teenagers: “We need to start educating our older children about having children. Not just should we offer design and technology and home economics in school, we should have a handling a baby class. A lot of us, especially men, are terrified of babies, because we have never been around them. If we are exposed to babies from a young age, it wouldn’t be so foreign when we finally have one!” – Prem Gohel, 37

14. Active campaigns around promoting extended breastfeeding: Milk powder is expensive and there is still a stigma around breastfeeding for longer than six months. To overcome these hurdles, create more awareness about the health and other benefits of breastfeeding for longer. 

15. Subsidise milk powder: At the same time, subsidies for milk powder should be available until the child is three years old — it’s one of the biggest costs for many mothers who choose to stop breastfeeding early. 

16. Make Singapore more baby friendly: “Build more nursing rooms in shopping centres and playgrounds for kids to play at. Offer baby-sitting services at restaurants and gyms.” — Dominic Sun, 22

17. Free fertility checks: This should be offered to all Singaporean mothers when her first child turns two to see if she is ready for the second baby. 

18. Better housing offers and benefits: “We should have a scheme where the more children you have, you are entitled to upgrade your HDB to a bigger flat or to a condo. E.g. Only one child, can only buy three-room flat. With two children, you can buy three- or four-room flat and so on. Couples with no children are not entitled to buy anything more than a three-room flat.” – Kalvin Tam, 38

19. Reduced medical cost for having second child and subsequent children: On average, giving birth (vaginal delivery) in a public hospital ranges from around S$3,740 to S$5,731. In a private hospital, this cost jumps to between S$6,048 to S$11,267. A C-section would be even more costly. It’s no wonder then that many Singaporeans stop at having just one child. 

20. Improved childcare services for working mums: “Let working mothers bring their kids to work (provide creche or child-care facilities) so they can be with their kids during lunch time.” – Monica Lim, 26

21. Paid time off should be given for gynae visits: Regular visits to the gynaecologist are a must to ensure the well-being of Singaporean women, including reproductive health. Yet, given that there’s no paid leave for these important health checks, many women will choose not to go. This means fertility issues — like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) — may go unchecked and undiagnosed.  

22. More work-at-home opportunities:  “There should be more home-based jobs for mothers, so they can work from home and care for their kids.” – Iris Sim, 29

23. More flexi-hours: Employers should offer flexi-hours for parents who care for multiple children. 

24. Higher subsidies for infant care: Preschool/ infant care fees should drop for those with two children. The third child should be offered free care. 

25. More part-time opportunities: “The government should enforce a regulation to enforce company to hire mothers as part-timers so that they can be with the child.” – Nita Rao, 34

26. Cancel car CoE (Certificate of Entitlement) for parents with three kids and above: It’s not easy transporting more than one or two kids by public transport. Again, we should take a page out Hungary’s book and offer subsidies for large families to buy larger cars. Or cancel the car CoE altogether for parents of three or more kids. 

27. Free education and childcare: “Education and childcare should be free-of-charge up till University level.” – Rishi Maniam, 39

28. Free health care: “Children should get free health care up to age 21. This will help improve low birth rates.” – Terence Oh, 36

29. Subsidies for basics: “Parents in Singapore pay a lot for basic necessities like milk powder and diapers. We should receive vouchers to redeem them for a subsidised rate.” – Tejwinder Singh, 33

Sources: The Straits Times, Channel NewsAsia, Statista 

Also read: Fertility Clinics in Singapore 

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Written by

Roshni Mahtani