It is heartening that, after four consecutive years of decline, the number of babies born here inched up by 0.5 per cent from 39,039 in 2018 to 39,253 last year. The numbers must be kept in perspective, however. Apart from the fact that while Singapore welcomed more babies last year, more people died, too, Singapore's birth rates are dismal. The small increase in the number of births may not alter the current age pyramid structure much. Nevertheless, it suggests that national pro-family policies introduced to deal with low fertility are helping to prevent birth rates from falling.
That is no small consolation, given that Singapore's resident total fertility rate last year was 1.14, among the lowest in the world. Unfortunately, there may be a possibility that the number of babies born in the near future may fall because of the current coronavirus crisis, whose economic consequences could outlast its immediate effects on public health and the consequent psychological dislocation. Indeed, the record is that fewer children were born in years when the economy did not fare well. It is understandable that couples are wary of bringing a new life into an unpredictable world in which they themselves are facing problems coping. A child is a responsibility like no other. Rational Singaporeans, accustomed to an orderly and predictable life, are worried naturally about their ability to take care of children in times of disruption.