SINGAPORE— The resident total fertility rate (TFR) in Singapore dropped to its lowest-ever level of 1.05 in 2022, falling below the previous record of 1.1 in 2020.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Indranee Rajah said during the office's Committee of Supply debate on Friday (24 February) that this was "partly due to the Tiger year in the lunar calendar, which is generally associated with lower births among the Chinese".
In 2010, which was also a Tiger year, the total fertility rate was 1.15, lower than the years before and after.
Under the Strategy Group in PMO, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) is currently overseen by Indranee. She explained that Singapore's TFR has decreased for many years, similar to that of other advanced societies.
She added that even Norway and Finland, which were previously successful in improving their fertility rates, are finding it difficult to sustain those gains.
The total fertility rate refers to the average number of live births each woman would have during her reproductive years, and Singapore's figure has been below 1.2 since 2017.
Delayed marriage and parenthood
More people in Singapore are postponing marriage, according to Indranee.
She said, "There are longer-term global societal trends at play which apply to us too. While the aspiration to marry and have children remain strong, more are postponing marriage and more are also postponing having children or having fewer children."
She highlighted that the resident life expectancy at birth has risen to more than 83 years today, up from 72 years in 1980. Around one in four Singapore citizens will be aged 65 and above by 2030.
As Singapore's resident workforce increases at a slower rate, Indranee believes sustained economic growth will be more challenging.
"As family sizes shrink, more Singaporeans will face the dual pressures of raising young children while caring for elderly parents. In fact, this is already happening," she said.
More support for parents and families
According to Indranee, the government will increase support for the early stages of family formation in a few areas, as Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced during his Budget address this month.
She noted that government-paid paternity leave would be doubled to four weeks for eligible working fathers with children born from 1 January next year, and companies would be encouraged to offer flexible work arrangements.
First-time families with children and young married couples will be entitled to greater priority, including an additional ballot when applying for Build-to-Order flats.
In addition, first-timer families buying resale flats can tap on housing grants that will increase by up to $30,000. The government will also contribute more to the Child Development Account and increase the Baby bonus Cash Gift by $3,000.
Indranee acknowledged that parents have also had feedback about difficulties in accessing reliable infant care.
"Under the Forward Singapore's Care Pillar efforts, we will be reviewing how we can better support new parents in caring for their infants. We will share more when ready."
New citizenships and PRs slightly higher than pre-COVID-19 levels
Indranee, also Second Minister for Finance and National Development, emphasised that welcoming immigrants to Singapore is important for moderating the impact of an ageing population and low birth rates.
She explained, "While most Singaporeans understand why we need immigrants, there are, understandably, concerns over competition for jobs and other resources, and how the texture and character of our society could change, and whether our infrastructure can keep up,"
Indranee said that since the tightening of the immigration framework in late 2009, the immigration rate had been stable and measured.
Singapore granted 23,100 new citizenships last year, including about 1,300 to children born overseas to Singaporean parents. Around 34,500 permanent residencies were granted.
As some applications had to be rolled over to 2022, Indranee noted that these resulted in slightly higher figures than pre-COVID-19 levels.
A wide range of factors, including family ties to Singaporeans, economic contributions and qualifications, is being considered when granting PR or citizenship. Indranee stressed that this is to ensure that new immigrants are rooted and contribute meaningfully to the community.
She also explained that all new adult citizens come from the PR pool and have been in Singapore for some time, while second-generation PRs serve national service.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.