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Consequences of longevity, low fertility upon us

We thank editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang for sharing his perspective (Population woes? There's a happier story; Oct 15).

As Mr Han pointed out, Singapore reaped the benefits of our "first demographic dividend" after independence, with an increase in the working-age population, rapid economic development and rising standards of living.

Singapore is now reaping a second "demographic dividend", as generations of older working-age Singaporeans accumulate more savings, and younger generations enjoy better education and jobs as they enter the workforce.

This is a positive development. However, there may be limits to this.

What he did not point out is that improved longevity, coupled with a low fertility rate, poses serious long-term consequences for Singapore, which are already upon us.

Our population is not replacing itself. At today's total fertility rate of 1.2, for every 100 persons in the current generation, we will have 60 persons in the next generation, and just 36 persons in the generation after that.

With the population of seniors above 65 years expected to triple from that in 2010 by 2030, the question is not whether we can provide for our children, but whether the fewer children we have can provide for their grandparents and parents.

Our surveys consistently show that the vast majority of Singaporeans have strong aspirations to marry, and have children.

The number of Singaporean babies born per year in the last three years has been among the highest in the past decade. But we can improve on this. It is, therefore, important that as a society - Government, employers and the wider community - we step up our efforts to support these aspirations and to make Singapore a great place for families.

To moderate the impact on our working-age citizen population, we take in a calibrated number of immigrants, many of whom have family ties with Singaporeans and/or have lived in Singapore for many years.

Tang Zhi Hui (Ms)

Director, Population Policy & Planning

Strategy Group Prime Minister's Office

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline 'Consequences of longevity, low fertility upon us'. Print Edition | Subscribe