S’poreans Not Giving Birth Enough As Number of Babies Born Drops to 8-Year Low

Image: Mama Belle and the kids / Shutterstock.com

Imagine this familiar situation: you’re at a Chinese New Year reunion get together and your relatives keep coming up to you one by one to ask when you’ll finally welcome a baby into the family.

GIF: Giphy.com

It’s frankly annoying, and you just want to yell at them that it’s coming soon and to not ask you again for you’ve heard the question twenty times at every house.

Unfortunately, they’re your relatives, and you can’t do that. But what if I told you… they may actually have a good reason to nag you to bear children as soon as possible?

Fewer Babies Being Born

Yep, the number of babies being born in Singapore annually have been dropping steadily, and it’s reached an all-time, eight-year low as of last year.

In 2018, 39,039 births were registered, according to the Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2018, which is 1.5% lesser than that of 2017’s number.

On the contrary, the number of deaths has been rising instead.

20,905 deaths were registered in 2017 and the number has increased by 1.8% to 21,282 in 2018, according to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

This means that Singapore has a greying population due to the number of deaths each year being on a steady climb, where the number of deaths were only 15,567 in 1998.

As the rate of deaths is increasing, there also has to be more births in order to maintain population size.

And in order to do that, Singapore’s total replacement fertility rate has to be at least 2.1.

However, the rate is now at 1.14, having dropped from 1.16 last year, which falls way under the bar.

This also contributes to an increasingly ageing population in Singapore, where there are basically more people above the age of 50 as compared to youths below that age.

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So, the rate of birth has to be more than the rate of death, but alas, that’s not happening.

It won’t be happening anytime soon either, thinks Tan Ern Ser, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He said that this issue was a concern, and that “the population must be replenished to ensure that a vibrant economy can be maintained, which can also support a greying population.”

Why Don’t Young People Want Babies?

Well, there are many reasons I can think of at the top of my head, based off reasons I’ve heard from the many young people around me.

Kids are annoying, they have no money or patience to raise one, they want to focus on their careers, the list goes on and on.

According to Associate Professor Kang Soon-Hock of the Singapore University of Social Sciences, the recent socio-economic trends show that more young people choose to stay single and younger couples are choosing to delay marriage and parenthood.

Right now, digital disruption, global financial volatility and climate change are also factors that may affect a young couple’s decision to bring a baby into this world, stated Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research at NUS.

It’s really tough to be a parent in this generation, huh?

Delayed Parenthood

The median age of first-time mothers in Singapore was 30.6 years last year too, which was older than 29.7 years in 2009. This shows that more and more couples are indeed delaying parenthood, most likely those who want to find stable careers and financial stability before taking care of a child.

As fertility decreases with age, this is yet another cause for concern, said Professor Yeung.

Since many couples’ reasons for not having babies just yet are usually related to work, Paulin Straughan, a professor of sociology (practice) at the Singapore Management University, believes that employers should be doing more to help their workers find a balance.

“Human resource departments should review their evaluation frameworks and make sure we don’t overly reward and encourage the over-committed,” she said, adding that Singapore might have to review its stance on immigration as a last resort.

Yep, if the problem gets bad enough, immigration rules may be relaxed so as to increase Singapore’s overall population, especially youths who can work here and contribute to the economy.

I guess now you know that if you give birth to a baby, you’re technically helping to save Singapore’s greying and ageing population.

Do consider carefully before making such a big decision, though. You don’t want to be stressed out even more than you would be when relatives hound you for the baby.

In the meantime, you can distract your relatives from asking that dreaded question by changing the subject and asking them to try the pineapple tarts. Works like a charm every time.