Minister of State (MOS) for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob said that while Malays may have a higher total fertility rate than other races in Singapore, the challenges faced in raising a family are the same.
Speaking at the sidelines of the Parenting Congress at the Marina Bay Sands Expo on Saturday, Halimah explained that, across the board, the number of babies produced by each community has gone down.
Halimah was responding to the issue on why Malays are having more babies after a letter to The Straits Time forum page on mid-August asking the question went viral.
"Of course when you compare, we still have more [babies] but the rate has gone down," Halimah, who is also a Malay mother to five children, told reporters.
"So that tells us that the Malay community, Malay parents, are also under the same kind of pressures -- dual-income families and wanting their children to excel and do well, therefore focusing on having smaller families where they feel is a lot more managable," she added.
"If you're looking for a magic formula, there's no magic formula," Halimah said jokingly.
However, she did point out that Malay women tend to marry younger.
"If you compare with other races, Malay girls marry slightly younger... [but] even that, as I watch the figures, it is progressively creeping up. Girls are making their way to schools... and after they graduate, they want to find a job and make sure they settle down in their career first. The Malay community is facing the same thing," she said.
To encourage more Singaporeans to get married and become parents, the National Family Council (NFC) under MCYS recommended on Friday that the government focus on "heartware" and "hardware".
In a recommendation paper, NFC said measures promoting marriage and parenthood in Singapore will only be effective if fundamental issues relating to Singaporeans' mindsets, values and environment are changed.
The NFC identified three key challenges of young adults and families, namely: rising cost of living, lack of infant care and childcare support and work life imbalance.
It urged the development of a "Family First" mindset within all levels of society and secondly, the improvement of "hardware" for an overall environment and culture that is more supportive of family formation.
To instill the mindset, it recommended instituting a Family Charter in that all government policies and programmes are to be scrutinised for their impact on the family, so that concerns could be addressed before implementation.
The NFC also proposed the creation of a public holiday known as Family Day.
To help reduce couples cushion the costs of raising a family, NFC also proposed that the government provide a scheme to allow young couples who are waiting for their new flat to rent HDB flats at subsidised rates.
Similarly, to encourage couples to have more children, NFC suggested that government provide additional housing grant for families with three or more children, or families who are expecting their third child, to upgrade to a bigger flat.
This subsidy will supplement the “Third-Child priority scheme” provided by HDB, so that families seeking to enlarge their family size are enabled through both priority allocation and financial assistance.
To attract more people to use infact care services, NFC also proposed an increase in infant care subsidy for working mothers from $600 to $800.
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