Singapore faces a grave and urgent problem of a low birthrate. With a record low fertility rate of 1.16 births per female, the percentage of persons aged 65 years and older will reach 19 percent of the population by 2030 compared to 8.7 percent in 2008.
This will have a serious impact as we will have an insufficiently large workforce to sustain the economy. In addition, there will be more elderly Singaporeans whom the younger generation will have to take care of. Clearly, something needs to be done to arrest the population decline.
The factors causing the low birthrate in Singapore are many. One of the biggest cited by young married Singaporeans against having children is the high cost of living in this country, and the biggest living expense is, of course, housing.
The prices of HDB flats have escalated to the point where many younger Singaporeans cannot afford them. As a result, these couples end up having to stay with their parents and in-laws. The lack of privacy and space constraints in such an arrangement is a major hindrance to these couples having children.
To remedy such a problem, the SDP proposes a public housing policy initiative that would facilitate couples of child-bearing age to purchase their HDB flats in the quickest time possible.
Presently, those applying to buy HDB flats for the first time are given priority over other applicants. These buyers, under the Build-To-Order (BTO) scheme, are then given a queue position –determined by a computer ballot – to book a flat.
Under the SDP's proposal, married couples who have children or are expectant and are applying for flats in non-mature estates will be divided into the following categories:
Tier 1: Couples who have two or more children under the age of 12
Tier 2: Couples with one child under the age of 12 and expectant couples
Tier 3: Other first time applicants
Tier 4: All other applicants
Booking and buying a flat for the above categories of potential homeowners will be processed under two new schemes:
I. Young Families Priority Scheme-Sales of Balance Flats (YFPS-SBF)
Buyers in Tiers 1 and 2 will be eligible for YFPS-SBF where they will be placed at the top of the queue for the Sales of Balance Flats (unbooked flats from earlier BTO exercises, Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme replacement flats, and repurchased flats).
This Scheme is crucial to first-time homeowners who are looking to have their first child or to have more children because waiting times for Balance Flats are shorter as they are already under construction or nearing completion.
If the number of Balance Flats are less than Tier 1 and 2 applicants, the unsuccessful applicants will automatically join YFPS-BTO (see below) and placed in pole queue positions for the Build To Order flats.
II. Young Families Priority Scheme-Build To Order (YFPS-BTO)
In any one application period under this phase, HDB will give buyers in Tier 1 the highest queue position to book a flat without having to go through a computer ballot. This will be followed by buyers in Tier 2. The queue positions of buyers in Tier 3 will be determined by ballot, followed by those in Tier 4.
Such priority allocation will ensure that couples who have children or are waiting to have children will be guaranteed a home in the shortest time possible. In addition, they get to choose the best flats available: high floor, best-facing, nearest MRT, etc – benefits which are considerable..
This will be strong encouragement for married Singaporeans of child-bearing age to have children as it will make child-rearing less prohibitive and allow parents of young children more space and less stress. The urgency and absolute priority given to young couples to buy their flats in the SDP's proposal reflects the seriousness of the regenerational problem in Singapore.
Moreover, it is simple and quick to implement. In fact, the procedure can be administered immediately at the next HDB ballot launch.
Such a family-friendly and pro-population growth-rate policy will not only stem the current downward fertility trend but also create an environment conducive to bringing up well-adjusted families. The net effect is a psychologically, socially and economically healthy Singapore.
The SDP recognises that there are other factors affecting the procreation issue in Singapore such as the price of HDB flats, the cost of living in Singapore, the education system and so on. These subjects will be tackled separately.
The policy initiative highlighted in this present article is but one of several measures that should be implemented if we are to see a healthy and sustainable population growth rate in Singapore. It is an effective alternative to the PAP's dangerous and misguided policy of increasing our population size through importation of foreigners.
It is also part of the SDP's Public Housing Plan which is currently under development by our Housing Policy Panel and which we expect to publish by the end of this year.