Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has stressed once again the need for Singaporeans to procreate.
Speaking publicly for the first time after National Day at a constituency national day celebration dinner on Saturday, Lee warned of adverse consequences if the country’s declining birth rates continue.
“If we go on like that, this place will fold up, because there’ll be no original citizens left to form the majority, and we cannot have new citizens, new PRs to settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms,” he said, noting that Chinese reproduction rate is now at 1.08, Indians at 1.09 and Malays at 1.64.
“So my message is a simple one. The answer is very difficult but the problems, if we don’t find the answers, are enormous,” he added.
Lee acknowledged the pivotal role that work permit holders have played in building Singapore’s infrastructure, and the contribution of permanent residents, without which he said the country’s population would be older, smaller and would lose vitality.
Further, he noted that in the long term, Singapore’s “educated men and women must decide whether to replace themselves in the next generation”. Currently, 31 per cent of women and 41 per cent of men are choosing not to do so, he noted.
“But we’ve got to persuade people to understand that getting married is important, having children is important,” he said. “Do we want to replace ourselves or do we want to shrink and get older and be replaced by migrants and work permit holders? That’s the simple question.”
MSF to tackle problem: Chan Chun Sing
Responding to Lee’s call for solutions to Singapore’s citizen population crunch, current acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing, who will be taking on the newly-established Ministry of Social and Family development (MSF), said the latter will pursue efforts to encourage younger Singaporeans get married and start families earlier.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the same event, Chan acknowledged that the issues are “challenges that cut across different ministries”, and said there are two aspects to the population situation — material and economic, which the government will work on, reported Channel NewsAsia.
“But like what Mr Lee said, the most important aspect has to do with the less tangible... (what) we value as a society — the institution of the family,” he said as quoted by the media outlet. “How do we see the institution, and the family... these are things we really need to work on as a society because it concerns our common future.”
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