Consider giving more subsidies to first two children up to tertiary level

The call for seniors to work longer to strengthen the labour force, given our low birth rate, is timely (S'poreans can help offset low birth rates if more work longer: Amy Khor, July 10).

The employment rate for those aged 65 and older almost doubled from 13.8 per cent in 2006 to 26.8 per cent last year.

For seniors aged 65 to 69, the employment rate was more than 40 per cent in 2015.

Based on projections from the United Nations, 47 per cent of Singapore's total population will be 65 years or older in 2050.

This demographic shift will result in immense pressure as a shrinking workforce struggles to support an ageing population.

Our ageing population will present various challenges such as reduced economic growth and increased healthcare and social service costs.

Working beyond retirement age is a personal choice. Some choose to continue working to pass their time while others do so for financial reasons. Those who are comfortable with their finances may choose to pursue their hobbies, chill out with friends or travel.

As Singapore has a rapidly ageing population, the need to employ workers beyond their retirement age and get retirees to rejoin the workforce becomes all the more urgent.

The continued decline in Singapore's fertility rate, coupled with the rising number of singles, is cause for concern.

Despite the Baby Bonus Scheme to lighten the financial burden of raising children, it seems that the scheme has not had the desired result.

We may have to turn to other incentives to encourage more married couples to have children, such as higher infant care and childcare subsidies.

With our healthy annual Budget, while at the same time exercising financial prudence, the Government may want to consider providing higher subsidies to the first two children of citizens from primary to tertiary level.

This may, in some ways, help couples to decide to have more children.

More importantly, it may stimulate singles to get married and have children. At the same time, we are helping to increase or at least maintain the birth replacement level.

Ultimately, manpower is Singapore's only resource and we must do everything we possibly can so that future generations will not have to go through more difficult times.

Andrew Seow Chwee Guan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2019, with the headline 'Consider giving more subsidies to first two children up to tertiary level'. Print Edition | Subscribe