Multipronged effort needed to boost fertility

The challenges of a decreasing total fertility rate and an ageing population have a major impact on the strength and growth of our economy, security and society on a long-term basis ("More young people staying single"; yesterday).

These challenges continue to loom on our horizon.

Perhaps we need to take a stronger and braver move - a more comprehensive Next Generation Package (NGP), if you will - to turn the silver tsunami tide and improve the results on a more sustainable basis.

The proposed NGP should be a more targeted, holistic, catalytic, and impactful thrust.

It should be implemented on a cross-governmental basis and be actively supported by the public, private and people sectors.

The NGP should address not just the roots but also the symptoms of the issues. It should seek to eradicate all the root problems as soon as possible, as time is of the essence.

For example, many couples are still concerned about the financial burden of having and raising children.

These concerns, rather than the pleasures of parenthood, can have a stronger influence on a couple's decision to have a child.

The NGP should take a multidimensional, multidisciplinary and multifaceted approach to help young couples defray major costs of bringing up their children.

These include the cost of placing their children in childcare centres, medical costs, educational costs and costs of major living essentials.

The NGP can lessen couples' worries and encourage them to have more children, and have them earlier.

It can lead to a more sustainable increase in the total fertility rate.

It can also encourage housewives to join and contribute to the workforce.

They can better focus on their work and, in doing so, improve personal and organisational productivity.

There are also many other indirect but catalytic outcomes that can result in a cascade of positive benefits for our country, including building stronger families and communities, strengthening the economy, and developing a more caring, cohesive and compassionate society.

If it takes a village to bring up a child, let us make Singapore the best village to bring up an appropriate quantity and quality of children to further secure and brighten our future.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline 'Multipronged effort needed to boost fertility'. Print Edition | Subscribe