Experts explain S’pore’s declining birth rate
By Kai Fong – January 14th, 2011
Experts believe the high cost of living is the main deterrent to couples having children. (Photo: AFP Images).
They are only getting married in June, but already the couple have decided against having any children.
Speaking to The Straits Times (ST), civil servant Jean Heng, 30, said she chooses her independence and freedom above having a baby.
She said, “Life in Singapore is very stressful. Work takes up a huge amount of time and I have no energy to take care of kids. If I want to have kids, I would want to devote enough resources in terms of time and money.”
Ms Heng and her teacher-fiance are just one of the many couples in Singapore who have decided to strike babies off their marriage checklist, citing common reasons such as financial and time constraints.
Experts ST spoke to are not surprised by the findings of the Census of Population 2010, which saw more childless married women and more one-child families. They cited the high cost of living as a main reason for couples shying away from raising children.
Associate Professor Tan Khye Chong, a statistics lecturer from Nanyang Technological University, said both husband and wife have to work to pay off the property loan. “It’s more difficult to start a family with both working and some may put off having a family until they are older.”
Professor Gavin Jones, a demographer at the Sociology department at the National University of Singapore, said the “perceived high financial and opportunity cost” deters couples.
“Once they have children, it closes off options seen as desirable; for example, free time, holidays and a career,” he said, adding that parents are also under pressure to produce “quality children” to do well in school and get ahead in life.
“There is pressure to devote a lot of effort to parenting, so it means giving them things like tuition. It’s a highly labour-intensive process to raise kids here,” he said.
Experts expect the low numbers to translate into far-reaching implications for the country, reported ST.
Singapore Management University’s Assistant Professor of Asian Studies Hoon Chang Yau said the increase in immigrants needed to make up the Republic’s workforce will “lead to a more complex society with more people from around the world settling here”.
“While it can be quite exciting, there will also be anxiety over the change in the Singapore identity,” he added. Policies would also need to be tweaked to cope with an already ageing population, which means people would have to work even longer.
The recent Census of Population 2010 found a six percentage point increase in the proportion of childless married women aged 30 to 39 and a near-3 percentage point increase in women in their late 40s.
Higher-educated women are having fewer children, compared to their less-educated counterparts, the Census found.
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