Many countries face the problem of a declining birth rate. Singapore fares among the worst having one of the lowest birth rate in the world. These countries, including Singapore, have introduced many incentives and baby bonus schemes to increase the birth rate, but the results have been disappointing.
We need a new approach - a paradigm shift. If we keep repeating the old methods, we will get the same results. Albert Einstein said that only mad people continue the same methods and expect different results!
Underlying causeWhat is the underlying cause of the declining birth rate? Women like to work. Many of them study to get suitable qualification and join the workforce. The high cost of living make it difficult for the traditional family (where there is one breadwinner) to earn enough to pay for the cost of raising a family.
This is a simple fact. It applies to most families. Wealthy families can afford to act differently. But the majority of the population cannot afford to live on one income.
Paradigm shiftThe paradigm shift is to move the cost of raising children from the family to the state. It is in the interest of the state to have its citizens produce children for the next generation. If the citizens cannot afford this burden, the state must come in to take care of the financial burden.
This means free maternity care, medical care, child care and education for the child. If the mother does not work and takes care of the child, the mother should also receive an allowance from the state up to a certain age of the child, e.g. until the child is 6 years old.
Cost to the stateSomeone will point out that this is costly to the state and means more taxes. My answer is - not necessarily. The state is already spending a lot of money on their current baby bonuses and other incentives, which are not working. We should be using the budget more wisely to get the result that we want.
It is likely that a higher budget is required under my proposal. But this can be calculated and the decision makers can consider if this higher budget is worth spending. I think that this is a priority issue, and is necessary for the future of our country.
Abuse of this schemeI have also considered the possibility of abuse. What if some families wish to produce many children? Will this be a burden to the state?
This matter can be easily resolved. The funding by the state will apply to two or three children in each family. If the family opts to have more children, they should bear the cost of the additional children on their own. The policy can also address the issue of single mothers and for unexpected child births.
I do not profess to have all the answers, but I know that the lawmakers or the people at large can find out the practical answers to these issues through discussion and voting for their choices.
Mothering as an occupationIf there are adequate incentives, some women may prefer to be a mother as an "occupation" and join the workforce when the children have started schooling. As the mother receives an allowance from the state and the cost of raising the child is largely borne by the state, it is possible for the family to live well on one income.
Some women may prefer to be educated and join the workforce. But other women, who are not academically strong, may opt to be a mother initially and join the workforce later.
Women are most productively when they are below 30 years. This scheme gives a choice for women to opt to be mothers, without creating a burden on the family finances.
ConclusionWe have to adopt a paradigm shift to increase the birth rate. My proposal is that the state should recognize that it is a priority to encourage citizens to have children and to remove the financial burden from the family for up to two or three children. We should also offer an option for women to adopt "raising a family" as an occupation, at least for a certain number of years.
Tan Kin Lian