More Female Permanent Residents will not solve low birth rate problems

~by: Chua Suntong~

I refer to the TODAY report dated 28 September 2011 “Singapore’s population grew 2.1 per cent this year” (see HERE).

In general, the trends of later marriages, less newborns, more immigrants and a higher resident (citizens and permanent residents) median age have continued.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed the Population Trends 2011 report quoted by TODAY also showed that the resident gender ratio has changed from 1027 males in 1990 to 972 males per 1000 females in 2011. This is partly due to a significant increase in more female SPRs (Singapore Permanent Residents) of conventional child bearing ages.

This is interesting because the Government has always been wary of granting residency rights based on spousal links i.e. it wasn’t too happy about granting SPRs to foreign women who married SC (Singapore Citizen) husbands.

From the increase in more female SPRs of conventional child bearing ages, it would appear that population planners have adopted the following strategy to increase Singapore’s low replacement rate of:

  • Bring in young foreign women with acceptable academic backgrounds for further studies and take up PMET (Professional, Managerial, Executive and Technical) positions.
  • Allow them to become SPRs independently and not through spousal applications.
  • Hope, they marry SC males and have children.

This strategy, in theory, solves three problems at once. Enhance the workforce talent pool, birth numbers and help SC males find partners (Some SC males claim difficulties in finding SC wives).

However, this strategy is not working in practice. Another Population in Brief 2011 Report published by the National Population and Planning Division (see HERE) revealed that from 2000 to 2010, marriages between male SCs and existing female SPRs formed only about 5 per cent of all annual registered marriages.

Independent female SPRs were also not marrying and having children earlier compared to SC women.  Both were more concerned with their careers in an uncertain job market, just like the men. For the past decade, more PMET SC men in younger age groups complained of difficulties in job searches and had to become self-employed. Their incomes became irregular due to economic problems. Few PMET women with regular incomes would want to marry these men.

In short, present population policies do not place sufficient emphasis on the financial cost of setting up families. The current policy review should give more importance to overcoming relevant financial constraints.