Pull out all the stops to get young couples to have babies

I refer to The Straits Times editorial (Low fertility raises population challenge, Oct 2 ).

Singapore is facing an existential issue. It is no different from what the water issue is for us.

Past measures like baby bonuses, generous maternity and paternity leave for parents, and more subsidies have done little to arrest the decline in births. Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) dived to a seven-year low of 1.16 last year.

The question is, why are we not pulling out all the stops in our policies to turn this around?

To use a term often used for commercial transactions: Make them an offer they can't refuse.

Give young couples and parents the full range of benefits - better job protection for pregnant mothers, heavy subsidies during hospital stays and delivery, full year of paid maternity leave - essentially, the works.

If raising the fertility rate is an existential issue, we should also be making raising children as light a financial burden as possible for parents.

Give young couples and parents the full range of benefits - better job protection for pregnant mothers, heavy subsidies during hospital stays and delivery, full year of paid maternity leave - essentially, the works.

Presently, the odds are stacked against young people getting married or raising kids.

We are dealing with the Yolo (You Only Live Once) generation who believe in achieving financial independence early and indulging in hobbies, seeing the world and having enough to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Getting married and having children do not feature high in their list of priorities.

Trying to lure foreigners is also not the answer. Getting foreign imports is akin to buying water to survive instead of trying to be self-sufficient.

Policymakers need to put themselves in the shoes of the younger generation in order to come up with solutions.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2018, with the headline 'Pull out all the stops to get young couples to have babies'. Print Edition | Subscribe