The Straits Times
Published on Feb 20, 2013

To have more babies, convince parents their kids will have a better future


THE 2012 Marriage and Parenthood Study showed that 83 per cent of singles intend to get married, and 84 per cent of married respondents intend to have two or more children ("Say 'I do' one day? Yes, but..."; Jan 4). Based on this, the Government projects the total fertility rate (TFR) to be 1.2 or lower.

If this is so, then what is the right mix of statistics that will give us the required TFR of 2.1? How did we achieve a TFR of 2.1 before 1975? Why were action programmes introduced since ineffective and in fact drove the TFR lower?

Married couples should ask themselves two questions:

First, can I afford to bring up children, and if so, how many?

Affordability does not refer just to finances. It also refers to sacrifices parents need to make in terms of time, for example.

Two, will my children have a future?

This question of survival is critical. Will my children be able to get decent jobs? Will they have a better life than I had?

My parents had four children even though my father had a low income and my mother was a housewife. My father believed his children would have a better life than him; and indeed we had.

I was an average student but made it through university without tuition. I paid for my HUDC flat in 10 years. I also own a car.

I am better off financially compared to my father. Yet I have only two children because I saw that my children will have a more challenging life than I do; and indeed they did.

If my children had my grades in school, they would have had no chance of making it to university. If they bought a house similar to mine, they would have to take a 30-year mortgage. They do not have cars and take over an hour to commute to work.

My father believed in the future. But I saw a different future for my children. And I expect my children will foresee an even tougher future for their children.

The Government seems to be working hard on the question of cost. But have they succeeded in painting a rosier picture for the future? Thus far, the quality of life the Government is promising seems to be all infrastructure related.

We should stop arguing over infrastructure and foreign workers for now. Let us discuss how to convince Singaporeans to have more children, and go beyond the financial aspect.

Ang Miah Boon