To me, the conundrum of the declining fertility rate in Singapore has largely attracted my attention. It is a very common phenomenon in countries that have attained a high level of development and standard of living.
Alas, there is nothing new in this issue. The causes and consequences of low fertility rate are quite well known that I don’t have to waste time discussing about them. But I read something interesting in this blog on the low-fertility trap. Just like the poverty trap, countries cannot come out of this low-fertility trap once their fertility rates plummet below 1.5.
The fertility rate in Singapore is 1.24 for now. It might change whenever. Another thing that I’ve learned after reading through the blog is that when the fertility rates have gone so low in some European countries in the 1980s, they have gone up again in the late 1980s. This is due to the decision of women to delay childbearing and then later deciding to have more than one child.
But whatever the Singapore government does, concerning the post-natal policies, it will not work effectively. I’m referring to policies such as more maternity leave, flexibility in working times and so on. While such policies are important, they are simply not enough to convince a typical couple to consider having more than one child.
The government, in my opinion, should focus also on pre-natal policies. The following excerpt from the blog that I’ve read will explain clearly what I want to say:
“Policy could make an impact. Wolfgang Lutz has suggested that we try informing women of the risks involved in postponement(of childbearing), and also make changes in our education system to enable flexibility between being a mom, and say, postgraduate study, or other kinds of career enhancing activities which could be easily combined with the early months and years of parenthood. Housing policy would be another area which could be scrutinised. The interesting thing is that these are pro-natal measures(or pre-natal measures as I say here) which may be effective, but which are not intrusive, since they help people do something they want to do, and don’t try to push them into doing something they otherwise wouldn’t do.”
It all boils down to mindset and individual-choice. The government can change the social and economic policies. But it cannot change people’s mindset, at least in an issue like this. But the government can do something to solve some of the problems and dilemmas that young women, mothers-to-be and mothers face.
Wolfgang Lutz is an Austrian demographer. His hypothesis is that those countries which sustain total fertility rates below 1.5 for any length of time may have fallen into a self-reinforcing low-fertility trap.