Low Fertility Rate in Singapore 2

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.

Low Fertility Rate in Singapore 1

The issues of low fertility rate and widening income gap have been fervently discussed in the local newspapers. These issues have really drawn me to the papers and to keep in touch with the updated information, despite the exams taking up most of my time. Finally, I now have the time to discuss and post on issues that I interest me.

This blog was first started with a purpose. Or shall I say, a number of purposes. (1) To discuss some scientific research that has interested me, (2) To talk about things and happenings in my life and (3) To discuss social issues so as to keep in touch with my English.

But as the blog continued to grow in length, width and depth, it has at some times deviated from the above-stated purposes. But it’s alright. This is just a blog, not a news website or something that needs to follow a set of guidelines and purpose.

So coming back to the issue that I wish to write about, after a month-long hiatus. First, there was the issue on the widening of the income gap in Singapore. Because of this and as a solution to this, the government has come up with the rise in the GST from 5% to 7%. GST is short for Goods and Services Tax.

Though it has some economic benefits in general, how will the low-income people cope with such a high tax? I don’t want to discuss about whether the policy implemented by the government is right or wrong here. I don’t have enough knowledge of the economics and hence, if I say something, it would have no basis.

But I was thinking. Is there a connection between this widening of income gap and the low fertility rate in Singapore?

Singaporeans are economically hard-driven and do not even know the true meaning of fun and relaxation. Perhaps, I’m generalizing here. But it’s partially true. Almost everyone here wants to earn a lot of money, buy a condo and own a car. It has become something like a culture.

Then it is not surprising to know that home-ownership in Singapore is 91.7% among the resident owners. The education system in Singapore is also fairly competitive and what every student ever thinks about is results. Amongst all these, there is no wonder why marriage is postponed, in the case of the singles; there is no wonder why childbearing is postponed, in the case of the married couples.

The widening of income gap in Singapore alone is not that significant compared to that in the international level. But still, there is this group of people in Singapore striving to earn a lot of money and upgrade themselves from a 5-room flat to a condominium. Then there is another group of entrepreneurs, constantly accumulating a lot of wealth. The number of millionaires in Singapore is on the rise(1). There is also this group of people struggling to earn enough money to meet the increasing cost of living in Singapore.

The constant drive to accumulate material wealth has caused both the widening income gap and the low fertility rate. I’m not saying that it is the sole cause or whatever. But it has directly or indirectly caused these two conundrums that Singapore is now facing. Of course, I’m not neglecting the other causes.

(1) There are 48,500 millionaires in Singapore. The number of millionaires in Singapore rose at the fastest pace in the world in 2004, according to a report by Cap Gemini & Merrill Lynch & Co. Singapore millionaires rose 22.4 percent to 48,500, the report said.