Scandinavia's pro-children policies may not work here

There have been many calls for the Government to provide more assistance and benefits for raising children.

Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi has proposed that we emulate the benefit schemes that Scandinavian countries have (Pro-children policies may help raise birth rates; Dec 10).

We need to understand more about these countries and what is behind their high total fertility rate (TFR).

In these nations, many people live together without being married, and a large proportion of children are born out of wedlock - in Sweden in 2013, 54.4 per cent of children were born to an unmarried mother. The generous benefits a single mother can get is one factor for so many babies born out of wedlock.

In Singapore, however, there is a stigma about raising babies out of wedlock. Hence, it is unlikely that providing the same level of assistance and benefits as Sweden would raise our TFR.

We must take stock of the outcomes from the money we have already spent on boosting the fertility rate before we decide to spend more. We should constantly develop new strategies that could work for us.

Many may find the environment in Scandinavian countries more liveable or relaxed than Singapore's.

This is one area where employers and trade unions could contribute more ideas and efforts to make our environment more conducive for bringing up children.

We also depend heavily on immigrants to top up birth deficits.

Perhaps we could tweak our immigration laws to attract more younger immigrants, and give them the needed assistance and incentives for raising children.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2017, with the headline 'Scandinavia's pro-children policies may not work here'. Print Edition | Subscribe