by Simon Lim
I refer to the news that Josephine Teo has called on young people to tell her government what is it that they want in order to have more children. I am not optimistic.
To begin, I want to point out that Josephine Teo has been given the responsibility to head the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) and it is precisely during her watch that our total fertility rates (TFR) have plunge even further and it now stands at just 1.14 per child bearing woman from 1.16 when replacement level is 2.1!
So, what will entice and make it easier and more willing for our married women to have more children? As it stands, the odds are stacked real high with a proven incapable minister in charge.
I ask myself if I were put in charge of tackling our very sorry state of TFR, what would I have done differently from Josephine Teo and two, if I were a young married woman, what would motivate or push me to want to have children?
To begin, our expectations must be realistic because the useless People’s Action Party government has neglected and allowed our TFR to deteriorate for far too many decades that it would take herculean efforts to firstly, stabilise any further fall and then hopefully, to reverse it.
Firstly, although the decision on whether to have children or not is a personal decision, personal decisions are sharped by many factors such as the frightening thoughts about the costs of bringing up a young family in a high-living standard city such as Singapore, the opportunity cost of having children coupled with the uncertainty of staying employed in a stable and decent paying job given the government’s pro-foreigner employment policies, our very stressful educational system, HDB flats are built smaller and smaller despite costing more and more and families with young children need more spaces and whether married couples with young children have understanding and supportive employers, colleagues, parents and in-laws are all important considerations etc.
It was true then that it took a whole village to raise a child and it is even truer today. In short, the policies by the current government’s policies make it non-conducive to have children in Singapore.
Although financial incentives do nudge some people towards having more children, it must never encourage the wrong type of people who could ill-afford to have children to become pregnant purely because of the dangling fat carrots. I personally know of some families who stay in HDB rental flats and they breed like rabbits. If we are not wise and careful enough, we are just sowing more social problems for the future.
Although building more child-care centres and kindergartens are helpful, they are far from being enough to tilt the decision to have children. We must never, never mistaken motion for action. Becoming pregnant, having children and bring them up properly is a marathon race. Babies are not just born, go to child-care centres, kindergartens and then wait for the time to die.
Will somebody please do me a favour? Tell that highly educated and very well-paid and well-fed but hopeless Josephine Teo that having children and raising them properly and responsibly is a marathon race.
I repeat. Babies are not just born, go to child-care centres, kindergartens and then wait for the time to die.
What this PAP government lacks is not money, rather, what it lacks is seriousness of purpose and the political will at addressing our TFR issue holistically. That is what was lacking in all those lost decades and even until today! Think.
This was first published on Simon Lim’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.