As Covid-19 rampaged across the world last year, the stork was not spared. The number of babies born in Singapore fell to a 10-year low. Meanwhile, total deaths were the highest in almost a century. This mirrors the trend in developed countries such as France, Italy and Spain, where birth rates nosedived amid the pandemic. Elsewhere, fertility rates also plunged in places such as China, Taiwan and South Korea, which are now following Japan on a path of population decline. The economic recession and massive uncertainty due to Covid-19, which has sparked fears of job and income losses, may be leading some couples to postpone major life events such as getting married and having a baby.
Singapore has long struggled with a falling birth rate despite a raft of measures to promote parenthood, from giving parents a Baby Bonus cash gift to boosting maternity leave and the number of childcare places. The Government recently announced that it will increase its dollar-for-dollar matching in the Child Development Account of each family's second child born from January this year, from $3,000 to $6,000. The authorities have reason to be alarmed by the downward drift in birth numbers. Already, Singapore's total fertility rate is below the level at which a population replaces itself. This could have serious knock-on effects, especially on plans to grow the Singaporean core.