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Pro-children policies may help raise birth rates

I agree with Professor Paulin Tay Straughan that Singapore needs to reverse the trend and raise its total fertility rate (TFR) to a healthy level (Let's not condemn Singaporeans to extinction; Nov 17).

We have had the most comprehensive pro-fertility policies to encourage marriage and boost fertility, but they have failed to stop the TFR falling from 1.96 in 1988 to 1.2 last year.

Economic and social conditions influence a couple's decision to start a family.

The falling rate is mainly due to the changing lifestyle of working adults in a consumerist society that stresses achievement and upward mobility.

Imbalance in work and family life discourages a couple from wanting to start a family. The high cost of living has also made raising children unaffordable for most working couples earning less than a combined income of $8,000 a month.

Despite having a lower gross domestic product per capita, Sweden and Finland have managed to maintain a healthy TFR.

The secrets behind this are generous pro-parent and pro-children welfare policies, like long maternity leave and free childcare, education and healthcare for children up to 18 years old.

Perhaps we should amend the pro-parent policy package to include pro-children policies too.

Such policies may influence the attitudes of couples who are considering starting a family.

The outcome may be a pleasant surprise.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 10, 2017, with the headline 'Pro-children policies may help raise birth rates'. Print Edition | Subscribe