Photo of Josephine Teo from The New Paper

Speaking at a forum with a Harvard academic, Senior Minister of State in-charge of the country’s population growth Josephine Teo said that younger Singaporeans need to change their “outdated” mindset and should set up a family first before establishing a career.

“Millennials need to change their mindset about starting families. It might be outdated to put such plans on the back-burner for the sake of one’s career. Rather, the young should consider building their careers in tandem with parenthood.”

Singapore’s current birth rate is at 1.24 as of 2015, the lowest in the world, and lesser Singaporean babies are born each year despite the increased import of foreigners in recent years.

Minister Josephine Teo also advised Singaporeans to job-hop and hold “multiple careers”:

“Rather than seeing one’s career as a single penultimate peak. Having multiple careers might become the norm, and so Singaporeans should view this as a mountain range of satisfying career peaks throughout life.”

The Minister said as job security is declining in today’s society, Singaporeans should just put giving birth first before establishing a career:

“The tempo of a career in the 21st century would be different, as workers would need time to constantly refresh their skills and recharge and retool. All of this means there will never be a time when career-building is done and learning can end … If marriage and parenthood are to feature at all, they must be priorities earlier rather than later in life.”

Minister Josephine Teo also claimed that the Singapore government has done a lot in housing, childcare and employment practices to help Singaporeans give birth, and that Singaporeans should “tap on the benefits”:

“Housing, childcare policies, and workplace and community support are key to making Singapore more family-friendly. It is important to be in step (sic) with society so that people feel empowered to tap the benefits available to them.”

Harvard sociology academic Professor Mary Binton however disagreed that only mothers get lucrative childcare leave allowance and that such benefits are not given to fathers too. The sociologist said that fathers should get equal benefits so that mothers will not be marginalised in employment:

“The policy can begin with fathers’ required leave being short — for example, one or two weeks — so that at least the idea of fathers’ leave becomes normalised, and it becomes taken for granted that fathers need and want to be involved in infant- and child-care.”

Singapore have been having the lowest birth rate in the world for more than a decade, largely due to disadvantages of National Service (NS). A male born in Singapore will be enslaved to 2 years of NS and yearly reservist training. Also, Singaporeans are not allowed dual citizenship, and the country’s citizens are forced to pay compulsory CPF taxes if they are employed in Singapore. The lack of social security and high cost of living in Singapore also greatly deterred young Singaporeans from taking the dive into the exorbitant family lifestyle.