Provide safety net for couples to raise birth rate

It is shocking that Singapore's total fertility rate was 1.16 last year (Parliament: Singapore's total population likely to be 'significantly below' 6.9 million by 2030; ST Online, March 1).

Singapore needs a clear strategy to push procreation.

Policymakers should understand that with more education, the average age when people get married - and consequently choose to have children - is rising.

Also, the residual influence of the "Two is Enough" birth control policy, introduced in the 1970s to encourage couples to have no more than two children, still lingers.

The current generation's desire for larger families has probably waned due to this.

Hence, efforts are required to promote bigger families.

Faced with rising costs in taking care of their elderly parents and raising children, it is not surprising that young couples prefer to have only one child.

Singapore needs a more comprehensive debate about the state of families. The state has a critical but limited role to play... What the state can do is to provide a basic safety net, but this requires an honest conversation about how much this will cost and how to pay for it.

This would give the child the best possible start in life, and allows couples to spread their resources evenly.

The state should allow multiple parent-relief claims instead of allowing only one sibling to claim. It is only fair as, usually, all the siblings support their parents.

More parent relief will help to reduce couples' financial burdens.

Singapore needs a more comprehensive debate about the state of families.

The state has a critical but limited role to play.

It cannot provide love and companionship or increase the budget indefinitely to care for the elderly.

What the state can do is to provide a basic safety net, but this requires an honest conversation about how much this will cost and how to pay for it.

With lower fertility, more people will grow old without having children in the long run.

Answering the question of what the state can do is easier compared with solving the problem of how to promote procreation in our society.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2018, with the headline 'Provide safety net for couples to raise birth rate'. Print Edition | Subscribe