THE total fertility rate in Singapore dropped to 1.16 last year, way below the replacement level of 2.1 ("Fertility figures hit all-time low"; Tuesday).
The decline in fertility rate has been observed for more than two decades. The Government had implemented many measures in past years aimed at increasing the fertility rate, but these have failed.
The Government has now opened its doors to immigration to increase the population and compensate for the low birth rate. While this is necessary in the short term, we need to find a better solution to produce more babies and raise them here.
The key reasons behind the low birth rate, based on public feedback, are the cost and stress of raising children, the long working hours and financial insecurity felt by many families due to the uncertainty of jobs, and the cost of living.
I suggest the following measures to address the concerns:
- Each family, comprising both parents who are Singapore citizens, should be allowed to raise two children with the cost largely borne by the State.
- The cost should include delivery of babies, nursing care, childcare and schooling fees, and medical expenses of the child.
- The mother should be given an adequate allowance if she has to stop working to look after the child, until the child goes to school.
The system can replace the generous parenthood tax rebates that are now given out. As the previous approach has failed to produce the intended results, we should now try a new approach, in the long-term interest of our country.
Tan Kin Lian