Photo of Josephine Teo from The New Paper

Singapore set the lowest birth rate record in the world again in 2016, at a fertility rate of 1.2. According to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore, this figure is down from 1.24 in 2015. Singapore saw 33,161 Singaporeans babies born in 2016, lower than the 33,725 in 2015. These figures are a far cry from the infamous low birth rate country of Japan (1.45).

Minister blame Singaporean mindsets

The dip in birth rate is the result of exorbitant living costs in Singapore but the Singapore government refuse to acknowledge the money problem. Instead, Senior Minister of State for population planning, Josephine Teo, blame Singaporean mindsets for the low birth rate. The Minister claim that Singaporeans put careers above family planning:

“I want to encourage millennial Singaporeans to pursue their aspirations for family as much as they work towards other meaningful goals. It is not unusual for people to have reached the zenith of their careers only to look back wishing they had set aside some time to grow a family of their own. The Government will also be revealing plans on how to support families in the coming weeks. We need bold collective actions in the areas of housing, pre-school services, workplace and community support. Together, let’s try and give our millennials the confidence that marriage and parenthood are achievable, enjoyable and celebrated.”

Immigrants are not giving birth either

However, a key fallacy in the Minister’s argument is that people are not giving birth instead of giving birth at a later age. The low birth rate issue reflects also the failure of the foreign immigration policies. At present, there are 2.5  million foreigners in Singapore with over 1.5 million in the workforce. From China alone, there are 1,000,000 PRC nationals or former PRC nationals-turned-citizens in the country while another million from Malaysia. Their presence in the country did not raise birth rate, and if immigration policies are correlated at all, the relationship is counterproductive. As such, it is not only Singaporean citizens who are not giving birth, foreigners who immigrated to Singapore are not giving birth either. The government’s decision to import more foreigners only further exacerbate the aging population as it is more new babies the country need and not more adults.

Money woes behind low birth rate

For all couples, financial costs of child-grooming is the major deterrence in the country that has one of the most expensive housing and daily expenses in the world. While the Baby Bonus are great help for families with newborns, the real damage comes in during education phase. Childcare centres in Singapore charge up to S$700 a month, and unlike other first world countries, there is no monthly child benefit for parents. Tuition costs for primary school children alone cost S$500 a month each. As Singapore’s public schools are inadequate, tuition is a necessity to keep children from being relegated into the ITE stream. Financial costs aside, children require parenting time and this is near-impossible given that Singaporeans clock the most number of working hours in the world.