Sunday, February 03, 2013

Family planning policy of the 1970s

I was asked, "Is the low birth rate in Singapore caused by the family planning policy, i.e. the 'Stop at Two' policy, implemented in the 1970s?" 

The answer is "no". The family planning policy affected the earlier generation, and not the young people today.

Our low birth rate today is due to a different set of circumstances. People are now marrying late, deciding to have fewer children, or to remain single.

The key factors are:

a) Time spent on National Service (for males), taking away two years of their time
b) Emphasis on university education, making people start work later
c) High cost of housing and cost of living, making young people delay getting married
d) Working too hard, leaving less time to find a suitable life partner
e) Worry about the high cost of raising children, i.e. tuition fees and other expenses
f) A different set of values, where having children is now not so important
g) Worry about saving enough money for retirement and health care cost for the elderly
h) In recent years, increased competition for jobs with foreigners, leading to depressed wages.

To increase our birth rates, we have to address the concerns of the young families today.

We have to find "out of the box" solutions, as the marriage and family packages adopted during the past two decades have failed to produce results. Insanity is described as "repeating the same methods and expected different results."

I will write about what I like to see as a new approach later. I like to hear your views.


yujuan said...

The Stop at 2 policy implemented is not the cause, but it's the impetus to start the ball rolling at an earlier state, and with rapid economic growth, those factors mentioned push situation deeper into the shit, and once settled, no amount of incentives to reverse course would help, and with this White Paper, it's going to get worse. Lack of security is crux of matter to procreation. And the White Paper is a desperate move with no solutions in sight.
The core of true blue Singaporeans would shrink further, the moneyed oldies would retire elsewhere, and our young, particularly the talented, would lose hope and move with their feet and migrate, questioning what's loyalty meaning to them.
Both citizens and the ruling leaders are feeling insecure about survival as a Sovereign Nation in the near future, maybe we are gravitating towards joining some other country. One Minister had said once Singapore is yet to be Nation on our own, a message behind this utterance.

michael13 said...

Endless efforts in pursuing material gains have had weakened the family values somewhat. Lack of parental support in helping to bring up the grandkids(the traditional arrangement) could be another cause of concern for the population experts to study further - the various factors......

Lye Khuen Way said...

Agree with yujuan's comments an what Mr Tan wrote.

To me, most of the uneasiness, insecurity
concerns stem from the ridiculus high Public Housing (HDB) prices.
Basing new HDB on Re-Sale HDB was a most hedious way of generating "growth" & a sad claim of "Asset Enhancement "

Making it worse, was the wishy-washy policies regarding PRs buying Re-Sales HDB, and Rental criteria.

As with almost all aspects of life in Singapore fore past decade, there was poor or hardly any Enforecment by the relevant Authories.

All were on Auto-pilot mode. From the policeman, to the Civil Service to the political leadership, no?

Spur said...

PAP is always using micro-managing "targeted solutions" to try & solve problems. With this birth-rate issue, their so-called solutions for the past 25 years are biased towards the top 30% of income earners, as they gain the most from the policies. Those in the bottom 50% can barely find the spare cash to benefit from those "solutions".

Anyway the reason why PAP's policies doesn't work is becoz they keep running S'pore as a corporation and cannot take any downtime or slowdown. Profits must keep going up, and you cannot stand still. No matter what, the "solutions" cannot affect GDP in the next quarter or next 12 months.

It doesn't take a genius to know that if things such as cost of living, better salaries, job security, cheaper housing options, employment law, corporate practices etc can be improved, the birth-rate problem will sort itself out.

It's not like S'poreans now totally don't want kids, or want to be director-level before thinking about having kids. Most people still want to have a couple of kids by the time they are 35. It's a matter of whether they find the environment supportive of it or not.

Taken to an extreme analogy: You don't find many people wanting to have children during wars. That's why after a major war, you usually get a baby boom, as almost anything is still a better environment compared to living in a warzone. And humans still have natural instinct to want to have kids.

S'pore may not be in war now, but for many people they feel like they are in one, with insufficient resources and their lives being at the mercy of companies and other higher ups.

Patrick Choe said...

For countries that do not adopt the idea of family planning, family tends to be large or very large. Husband and wife just let nature take its course.
For countries that have adopted the idea of family planning, the idea of controlling the family size is very attractive.

Pre-twentieth century, Asian societies tend to have large because of the notion that "the next generation will look after me when I am old", so more children is better. There are incentives and future reward for having children.
But now, our society's norm is "the next generation is not responsible to look after me when I am old", then where is the incentive and the need for having(so many) children?? In fact, parents may be burdened to look after their children beyond 25 years old (pay for their post-grad education, chip-in their housing expenses). There is no future reward, but endless future 'pain/cost'for having children.

If we can bring back the ancient practice of one generation responsible for the previous generation during their old age, then each generation will definitely like to produce a larger next generation.

simple said...

"The family planning policy affected the earlier generation, and not the young people today." Tan Kin Lian's list of factors are valid. But growing up through the years of STOP AT TWO, today's young generation has been tuned to be accustomed to small family units even those without children. The joy of procreation has been taken out of the equation. Social engineering by non-expert polticians is a dangerous game that has upset the societal eco system and the problem is aggravated by difficult cost and condition of living that persist now. If the govt still try to solve this problem without expert advice as per the White Paper on Population, the eco systen may be further upseted.

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