According to the Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2018, the number of babies born in Singapore last year dropped to an eight-year low, highlighting a serious demographic challenges for an ageing population.
The report stated that 39,039 births were recorded last year, which is a 1.5% decline from the year before.
However, the number of deaths increased by 1.8% – from 20,905 in 2017 to 21,282 in 2018. This is based on the report released by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.
Given that Singapore has an ageing population, it’s no surprise that the number of deaths has been on the rise where since 1998, there were 15,657 deaths registered.
Adding to the bad news, the country’s fertility rate also dipped from 1.16 in 2017 to 1.14 in 2018. This figure is way below the replacement rate of 2.1. This is despite the measures that the government have put in over the years to spur couples to have more babies.
Back in 2018, the-Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean partially attributed the decline in TFR in recent years to a demographic shift. Noting that the children of the ‘baby boomer’ generation are only just entering peak childbearing age of 25-39 but many of them are not married yet and haven’t started having children.
Citing survey results that show a vast majority of Singaporean’s wanting to marry and have children, Mr Teo said that some may decide to delay parenthood in order to fulfil other aspirations like establishing a career or travelling the world first.
National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser told ST that the declining rate in births will generally continue. He added that this is a worry since the population must be replenished in order to maintain a strong economy, which can also assist a greying population.
Looking at the figure, Associate Professor Kang Soon-Hock of the Singapore University of Social Sciences also told ST that the birth numbers show the current socio-economic trends, where a large group of young people choose to be single and couples delay their plan for marriage and parenthood.
On top of that, increased uncertainties due to digital disruption, global financial uncertainty and climate change also contribute to this current situation, ST quoted Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research at NUS.
“(These factors) might prompt couples to think even more carefully about whether to bring a baby into the world or not. The median age of resident live births for first-time mothers was 30.6 years last year, compared with 29.7 years in 2009. This itself is a cause for concern,” explained Prof Yeung, as fertility rate drops with age.
Over on social media, netizens blame the high cost of living the reason why the birth rate in Singapore declined to an eight-year low.
Commenting on ST’s Facebook page where over 200 comments were garnered, they added that stress and poor work-life balance also contributed to this situation.
Others blamed Government’s two-child policy implemented in the 1970s the culprit for the current problem. They added that the Government was not “far -sighted with the ‘Stop at 2’ population control scheme”. On the other hand, user Joe Koshi San said that the hike in foreigners is the reason why Singaporeans don’t want to have more kids. He explained that they’re afraid that these foreign workers will “snatch” their jobs away, resulting to them not having the money to afford a child.
A group of online users call the Government to introduce policies and subsidies to help parents cope with the high cost of raising a child. Some of their suggestions include free education, discount at private childcare centre, free medical coverage as well as to provide work-life balance for the parents and offer flexible work arrangements so they can spend time with their kids.