Forum: Even more needs to be done to encourage having babies

Low birth rates and even lower birth rates during the Covid-19 pandemic are not happening only in Japan (Pandemic set to worsen Japan's dismal birth rates, Nov 8).

It is a phenomenon that is unfolding elsewhere, and Singapore, whose total fertility rate (TFR) dipped to an abysmal low of 1.14 last year, may be more adversely affected than most.

It is estimated globally that in 183 out of 195 countries, fertility rates are below the replacement rate of 2.1 and catastrophically, by 2100, many nations, including even China, will have their populations halved.

In other words, there won't be population reinforcement coming from anywhere any more.

While Singapore's total live births ticked up marginally from 2014 to 2018, to 39,279 last year, this number still reflects a TFR of 1.14, a statistic which, even if maintained, will put Singapore at risk of under-population.

I pessimistically predict TFR will drop lower still this year.

The fertility problem here lies in the young not marrying or procreating.

While the Government has rolled out package after package of baby incentives, perhaps even more maternity and paternity leave should be granted, childcare subsidies comprehensively enhanced, tax incentives intensified and extra employment rights magnified.

Singapore will spend $100 billion to combat the Covid-19 scourge. We also need to spend more on the existential threat of a low fertility rate.

Otherwise, we may end up with a scenario where Singapore's population will mainly be made up of the elderly infirm, with no youthful vim and vitality in the workforce, septuagenarians or octogenarians cannot retire, and there won't even be enough firm hands on deck to care for them.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

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