Change in goals, priorities needed to boost birth rate

With Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) hovering between 1.16 and 1.2 in the past few years, we have only produced slightly above half of the number of babies needed to replace our resident population (S'pore's fertility rate down as number of singles goes up; Sept 28).

The latest Population in Brief report showed that the proportion of singles has also been increasing. It is especially noticeable among women aged between 25 and 29, with the proportion rising from 60.9 per cent in 2007 to 68.1 per cent last year.

With so many citizens not getting married, our TFR would drop further in the coming years.

Many years ago, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had sounded a warning over the declining TFR, saying: "If we go on like that, this place will fold up, because there'll be no original citizens left to form the majority, and we cannot have new citizens, new PRs to settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms." In short, the mere survival of our nationhood is at risk.

We have been depending on immigration to sustain our resident population for many years, not counting the more than one million foreign workers that are classified as non-resident population.

Last year, more than 20,000 foreigners became new citizens. With Singapore's aging population and declining births, the number of new citizens will increase in the future.

Fostering interactions between local and foreign-born citizens and residents certainly needs a boost. The public, employers, schools and social communities can play an important role in this respect.

Every year, we spend billions of dollars on economic and infrastructural development, as well as defence. Still, our nation may fold up if our demographic problems are not properly tackled. It may not happen in our time, but in our descendants' time.

A major change in our mindset is needed to address this issue, starting with reviewing and resetting our national as well as personal goals and priorities.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2018, with the headline 'Change in goals, priorities needed to boost birth rate'. Print Edition | Subscribe