The Sunday Times says

Avert rise of 'no-baby' boomers

A person holding a baby in a nursery at Mount Alvernia hospital.
A person holding a baby in a nursery at Mount Alvernia hospital. ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

The apparent reluctance of millennials to build their own families is a subject of much concern everywhere, fed by "an avalanche of writing lately" on why many are choosing to never have children, as a Time magazine commentator noted. At one time, the young would just shrug politely when elders ask when they plan to have kids. Now, some women regard that as an "invasive" query. The shifting demographic contours are quite stark in America where one in five women is childless compared to one in 10 in the 1970s, according to the Pew Research Centre.

Tiny Singapore dispenses with coyness as fertility rates are below 1.4 - so far from the replacement rate of 2.1 that it raises profound existential fears. Fertility campaign posters, put up by voluntary organisation I Love Children, presented MRT commuters with cartoon sperm and messages like "women are born with a finite number of eggs". Lately, online chatter bubbled over a passing comment by Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo to stir a wider discussion on parenthood: "You need a very small space to have sex."

Space in the Singapore context commonly refers to an HDB flat to call one's own. To meet the expectations of the young and others, the State is shortening the wait for public housing to around two to three years, as announced recently. Home aside, there are other considerations too, like childcare and flexible work arrangements.

Such practical issues deserve attention, of course. But the heart of the matter is that the choice is a matter of the heart. Socialising the parenthood instinct is a broad effort that also hinges on how the young are raised at home and how family friendly the environment is outside.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 23, 2016, with the headline 'Avert rise of 'no-baby' boomers'. Print Edition | Subscribe