Falling birth rate a price to pay for economic progress

The Government is right to be concerned about Singapore's declining birth rate, as this will have an impact on the manpower needs for national defence, civil service and other essential services.

Despite various incentives and measures to boost the birth rate and help parents take care of their newborns, it is obvious these have not brought about the desired result.

This could be discerned in the speech in Parliament last week by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office who oversees population matters. She mentioned that the total fertility rate of 1.16 last year was the lowest since 2010 (Parliament: Singapore's total population likely to be 'significantly below' 6.9 million by 2030; ST Online, March 1).

Unfortunately, this is the price to pay for economic progress.

It is a common issue faced by mature economies around the world, where the dual pursuits of economic excellence and higher education are on a collision course with the need for an increase in births.

Adding to this is the faster pace of life in the working environment, as a result of advances in technology and the need for almost immediate action or responses. Working adults are facing more pressure than ever as a result and, in the end, there has to be a sacrifice somewhere.

The immediate impact has been on the basic family unit as singles prefer to stay unmarried, as investing time and effort in romance takes too much time, while married couples put off having children or have just one child.

This is the reality this generation is facing, and a perfect solution that will see a vibrant economy with a high birth rate is not going to happen any time soon.

Gabriel Cheng Kian Tiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2018, with the headline 'Falling birth rate a price to pay for economic progress'. Print Edition | Subscribe