The latest pro-family measures announced recently should help to lower the cost of raising children and, for some couples, of having children through assisted reproductive technology. The financial help cannot, however, take the place of a desire for children because such choices must lie outside the cost-benefit calculus. In any case, pre-school expenses will be cut for many. From next year, lower-income families may need to pay only as little as $3 a month for full-day childcare. The monthly household income ceiling for additional childcare and kindergarten subsidies is also being raised to $12,000. And more help will be offered with fertility treatment, even for older couples. There will be no more age limit for women undergoing assisted reproductive technology treatment from January. It currently stands at age 45.
These latest measures constitute the eighth round of enhancements to pro-family initiatives since 2001 and underline the Government's continuing concern with the threat of demographic decline. Worryingly, fewer couples tied the knot last year and the number of babies born here also fell to an eight-year low, with the total fertility rate sliding from 1.16 in 2017 to 1.14 last year. This remains well below the replacement rate of 2.1. At this rate, Singapore would be hit hard by demographic decline, whose only solution would lie in immigration, which has its own set of problems.