To attract the stork, target lifestyle aspirations

It is no surprise that carrots like the Baby Bonus cash gift and maternity leave are seeing diminishing returns in boosting Singapore's flagging birth rates ("Fewer sold on incentives to start a family: Survey"; Tuesday).

Whenever perks like the Baby Bonus are increased, the corresponding childcare cost increases. Hence, the net financial benefit cannot be much felt.

While children bring joy to the family, they also entail many sacrifices, which many young adults are not willing to make.

Expenses for children will mean couples will have to cut back elsewhere, for example, on dining out, buying a car or travel. The truth is, in today's society, singles and childless couples can afford to spend more on themselves than parents can, driving a more self-centred behaviour.

The solution is to close the gap between the aspirations of singles or childless couples, and those of parents. Target the aspirations of many people in, say, owning a car.

Those without children can afford a car - or a better one - more easily than those with children.

So, perhaps a $10,000 rebate could be given to families for a first child, and another $10,000, for every subsequent child.

This may be controversial, and even objectionable, to some people but it closes the aspiration gap; parents will not see themselves as losing out on having a car just because their money is going towards their children.

Ivan Goh Sian Lung

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'To attract the stork, target lifestyle aspirations'. Print Edition | Subscribe