At least 33,793 Jubilee babies born in 2015, the highest in 13 years

Latest official figures show the Jubilee Year ended with at least 33,793 new babies - the highest in 13 years. ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

SINGAPORE - The feel-good factor of the SG50 celebrations and enhanced parental perks have delivered 600 more babies to Singapore last year.

Latest official figures show the Jubilee Year ended with at least 33,793 new babies - the highest in 13 years.

It exceeded even the 33,238 births in 2012, the auspicious Year of the Dragon for Chinese births.

The bumper births are a sign that more young Singaporeans are starting to embrace marriage and parenthood, said Dr Kang Soon-Hock, head of the social science core at SIM University.

Past parenthood packages and earlier policy interventions have "laid the groundwork" for the gradual mindset change, he added.

Singapore began tackling its dearth of births in 1987 and over the years has offered, among others, tax rebates, baby bonus, priority in getting bigger HDB flats and subsidies at specified childcare centres.

Last year, the new incentives included a doubling of the one-week paternity leave and an extra $2,000 in baby bonus.

Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo, who oversees population issues, welcomed the 1.8 per cent rise over 2014.

"I am encouraged,'' she said on her Facebook page on Tuesday (Feb 2) evening. To keep the momentum going, she will focus on three areas, she added.

They are: help fathers play a more active role in raising their children, provide a bigger network of affordable quality childcare, and improve workplace and community support for young parents.

The birth figures refer to babies with at least one Singaporean parent.

And last year's number, collated from the quarterly demographic bulletin issued by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, is not the final figure as it does not include Singaporean babies who have yet to be registered by the end of last year.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said the rising trend could continue, as the People's Action Party's landslide victory at last year's polls may bolster Singaporeans' confidence in the future of the country.

But getting Singaporeans to have more babies continues to be an uphill task, said the director of the Centre for Family and Population Research, Professor Jean Yeung.

The two main reasons she gave are the low marriage rate and people getting hitched later.

No less significant, she added, "is the actual cost and opportunity cost of having a baby''.

Among the new parents last year was MP Tin Pei Ling, who said childcare services continue to be a need among her residents in MacPherson.

"They may not be able to find domestic help or their parents are not around or able to provide help. We need to do more to increase the availability of spaces at various workplaces, and make them affordable," said the mother of a six-month-old boy.

MP Louis Ng said he hoped more employers, starting with the civil service, would adopt flexi-work arrangements to give their workers more quality time with their children.

He said: "It's just as important to emphasise the joy of raising children, even as we address the financial concerns."

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