PM Lee Urges People to Have More Children in His Annual CNY 2024 Message

It’s the Year of the Dragon—the most favourable year to have children for Chinese families. 

PM Lee, in his annual Chinese New Year address on Friday (9 Feb), wastes no time in expressing his utmost support and hope for Singaporeans to have more children, and have them earlier.

In his message, he hailed the dragon as a symbol of “power, strength, and good fortune”, encouraging young couples to consider welcoming a “little dragon” to their family. 

He repeated his call on social media on the first day of CNY:

This persuasion echoes against the backdrop of declining fertility rates all around the world, especially in developed countries like Singapore. 

Singapore Fertility Rate at a Historic Low

In 2022, Singapore’s total fertility rate hit a historic low of 1.04 after years of steady decline. 

This is far below the replacement rate of 2.1, which is the average number of children born per woman to allow a population to exactly replace itself from one generation to the next, without migration.

While sub-replacement fertility rates have become a norm in developed economies, it is undeniable that Singapore would benefit from a higher fertility rate. 

What are these superstitions all about? 

Dragon Year = More Kids

For some Chinese families, the personal characteristic traits and luck of their offspring have something to do with how the constellations are positioned at the time of birth. 

Whether you find this notion reasonable or not, the data has proven that zodiac constellations do actually hold enough power to influence decisions to have children.

Among the Chinese population in Singapore, the auspicious Year of the Dragon in 2012 saw a total fertility rate of 1.18. Fast forward to the Year of the Tiger in 2022, and the rate plummeted to a mere 0.87. 

Historically, between 1960 and 2007, it is also estimated that Singaporean Chinese births increased by 9.3 per cent in Dragon Years, and fell by 7.8 per cent in Tiger years.

What is the deal about the Dragon Year? And what is so bad about the Tiger Year?

Well, for starters, the Dragon Year is the only mythical beast in the Chinese zodiac. Hence, people adorn it with positive attributes. Children born in the Dragon Years are believed to embody more desirable traits such as intelligence, leadership, and abundant good fortune. 

On the other hand, the Tiger Year is associated with rebelliousness and bad-temper, particularly unwelcome traits, especially in girls. Tigress girls are often depicted as rebellious, wild, and unpredictable, potentially bringing misfortune upon their families.

Of course, none of this is backed by science. 

But, considering that parenting is a lifelong commitment, maybe it is better to be safe than sorry.

Government Support for Your marriage and Parenthood Aspirations

PM Lee also recognises that, for many, the mere auspiciousness of the Dragon Year is not enough to get young people to stop putting off or even consider getting children. In his message, he acknowledges that the “decision is a very personal one”. 

From the high cost of living, to career considerations, young people today have many reasons to say no to bearing children.

But if you do decide to say yes, PM Lee pledges support by envisioning a “Singapore Made for Families” and implementing initiatives to support your marriage and parenthood aspirations. 

To ease the load of parenting in the child’s formative years, infant caregiving and support for work-life balance will be progressively strengthened. Future dads can enjoy four weeks, instead of two weeks, of government-paid paternity leave, and companies are encouraged to offer flexible work arrangements for both parents. 

Announced in Budget 2023 last year, the government has also bolstered monetary incentives by increasing the Baby Bonus Cash Gift by S$3,000 and contributing more to the Child Development Account. 

Furthermore, first-timer families with children and younger married couples will also get greater priority for Build-to-Order flats. Housing grants for first-time families buying resale flats will also increase by up to S$30,000

Of course, the next Budget speech will be made on 16 Feb; maybe there are more to come?