New research centre to tackle population, family issues in Singapore and Asia

SINGAPORE - A new centre dedicated to researching family and population issues in Asia was officially launched by the National University of Singapore on Tuesday. 

The Center for Family and Population Research (CPFR) can help tackle Singapore's low fertility, an ageing population and changing family profiles  - issues which other Asian societies also face, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu at the launch. 

Ms Fu, who is in charge of population issues, said Asian societies are influenced by Confucian values like structured hierarchies at home and in the workplace, as well as migration.

"Norms are changing and an Asia-oriented study into the changes will give useful inputs on policy solutions," she said. 

The centre could shape policies aimed at reversing Singapore's declining birth rate and preparing for an ageing population, two priorities of the Government, she said. 

She warned that, with a fertility rate of 1.2 and without immigration, Singapore's citizen population would start to shrink around 2025. By 2060, the population could fall to the same level as in the early Nineties - but older. 

"Things will look very much better if we raise our birth rates, remain open to immigration at a calibrated pace, and enable seniors to make contiued contributions to society," she said. 

The centre cost $1.5 million and is helmed by Professor Jean Yeung, a faculty member from the NUS' Sociology Department.

She said the centre will focus on research in areas like managing family stress, training people in topics like social care for older adults, and mentoring junior faculty members and graduate students. 

She also emphasised the importance of strong families, even as the country's population changes: "Singapore must decide what the size, shape and colour of its population, and its basic social economic unit - the family - will look like."