What's with Singapore's baby bump?

There were 33,793 citizen babies born last year during Singapore’s Golden Jubilee year – a record number in 13 years. But it is still too soon to say if it is a sign of more rises to come or just a blip.
There were 33,793 citizen babies born last year during Singapore’s Golden Jubilee year – a record number in 13 years. But it is still too soon to say if it is a sign of more rises to come or just a blip. ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

Insight takes a look at how the country is tackling the low fertility issue and what can be done.

Giving cause for cheer, 33,793 citizen babies were born during last year's Golden Jubilee celebrations, the highest number in 13 years.

That tops even the 33,238 Singaporean babies born in the Dragon Year in 2012, which the Chinese believe to be an auspicious year to have children.

There have been numerous incentives in cash bonuses and subsidies over the years to encourage couples to have children. In 2013, the Marriage and Parenthood package cost the Government $2 billion.

Apart from handing out cash carrots, the Government is looking to support parents with their childcare duties, too. Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo, who oversees population matters, said earlier this month that fathers may soon get two weeks of compulsory paternity leave.

Singapore's birth rates, however, continue to be in the ultra-low zone, under 1.4 - which is below the replacement rate of 2.1 children.

It is also too early to say if last year's uptick is a sign of a more permanent rise, or just a blip. Observers have put down last year's record number of babies to the celebratory mood of SG50.

But Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research, thinks last year's increase could be a one-off.

Prof Yeung says: "As economic uncertainty is looming, people tend to postpone major decisions on life events such as getting married or having a new baby."

This Valentine's Day, Insight looks at the fertility problem that continues to plague Singapore, as well as some creative solutions the Republic and other countries with similar population issues have come up with.

Tackling S'pore's baby shortage

I, robot baby

Checking in for romance

How about some French ooh la la?

S.Korean civil servants turn off lights to get turned on

Life isn't always planned

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2016, with the headline 'What's with S'pore's baby bump?'. Print Edition | Subscribe