The Government is studying proposals from the public on how to encourage Singaporeans to get married and have children earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Tuesday.
In the townhall dialogue “Our Population, Our Future” attended by about 200, Teo, who also takes charge of population policies, said that people have suggested increasing government’s financial support for parents, improving the availability and quality of childcare, and promoting work-life balance and flexi-work arrangements.
“We are studying these proposals, including ideas to refine existing marriage and parenthood initiatives,” he said in his speech at the event, which was organised by government feedback channel REACH and the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD).
The government has been reaching out to the public to get feedback on how to improve the country’s falling total fertility rate, which has fallen to 1.2, far below the replacement rate of 2.1.
“1.2 means that for every 100 Singaporeans in this generation there will only be 60 Singaporeans in the next generation on average. In the generation after that, there will only be 36 Singaporeans, and because more people are living longer, the 36 people will have to look after the 60 people from the previous generation and most of the 100 people from the generation before that,” the deputy prime minister noted.
To stem the shortfall of people, Teo stressed the need to add to the citizen population,.
“We will need to add approximately another 20,000 new Singaporeans each year, to keep our citizen population stable,” he said.
He also cited the importance of Singapore being open to foreign workers given the need to build infrastructure.
“Singapore feels crowded today because population growth surged ahead of infrastructure, transport and housing has the economy rebounded rapidly over the past few years,” he acknowledged.
“There is a need for Singapore to catch up, which also explains the increase in construction workers now. With a new rail section opening every year until 2017 and the bus fleet expanding by 20 percent over the next five years, there is a need for foreign workers in Singapore to help with the building of infrastructure,” he pointed out.
On the question of how many people Singapore can support, Teo said this depended on many factors, including how well urban planning is done and the technology that is available.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), in its most recent midterm concept plan review in 2006, assessed that Singapore has enough land to support a population of over 6 million, Teo noted.