The Straits Times
Published on Dec 01, 2012

Starting family life sooner: Roadblocks for young couples


WHILE immigration is thought of as a solution to the labour shortfall, it is also contributing to low birth rates ("PM wishes he had stressed population woes sooner"; Thursday).

One common perception about today's younger generation is that it is more idealistic and cosmopolitan, and that many of the generation choose to prioritise careers over family, and postpone childbearing.

While there are those who subscribe to such views, and contributed to the low birth rates, couples at the other end of the spectrum have difficulty starting families due to high property prices and the long wait for public housing.

The Housing Board (HDB) has relaxed its regulations on flats in recent years.

For instance, owners are allowed to lease out their flats while they live in another residence, such as private property.

This has created a shortfall in the supply of resale HDB flats for young couples wanting to start a family, but who cannot afford to wait for the construction of a new flat.

The potential for good investment returns from renting out HDB flats has also driven up the prices of resale flats, which has in turn driven up the prices of new HDB flats, whose prices are ultimately pegged to the prices of resale flats.

The rapidly increasing prices of HDB flats over the past few years have resulted in young couples needing longer periods of time to save for the down payment for a flat.

This, together with the Build-To-Order scheme, which requires buyers to wait for their flats to be built after they have purchased them, has compounded the problem of young couples needing to wait before they have their own flat to start a family in.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has noted that couples should not wait to start their own families.

However, we cannot discount the challenges that young couples face in starting their own families.

While immigration may solve the labour shortfall in the short term, it is having a negative impact on our birth rates: it is one of the causes, and not the solution.

While some young adults may not be keen on starting families, we should do everything we can to remove obstacles for those who want to.

Tan Jiaqi