SINGAPORE, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Singapore's total fertility rate slipped again to 1.19 last year, compared with 1.29 in 2012, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Chinese New Year message on Thursday, calling for efforts to do better.
The number is far below the replacement rate of 2.1. The government had said that it hoped to raise the total fertility rate to somewhere near 1.4 or 1.5 with comprehensive packages.
"Unfortunately, despite our efforts to promote marriage and parenthood, our birth rates are still too low," Lee said.
The total fertility rate for the Singaporean Chinese, which account for over 70 percent of the local population, was even lower at 1.06.
Singapore's total fertility rate steadily dropped from 1.6 in 2000 to a record low of 1.16 in 2010. It bounced back to 1.2 in 2011, and further to 1.29 in 2012, partly thanks to the year of the dragon in the Chinese calendar being a popular year to have babies.
The prime minister said that the government will create more childcare and pre-school places as access to such services is an important factor in the decision of couples to start families.
Pre-school education in Singapore has largely been private run, but the government has been giving out subsidies to local residents. However, the government has recently started to put in more efforts in this sector.
Lee said 7,000 new childcare places were added last year and the target it to add a total of 20,000 new places by 2017.
The Ministry of Education has started running five kindergartens, Lee said, adding that the number will increase to 15 over the next few years.
"We must create a pro-family environment which gives families the confidence and support to raise their children," he said.
Lee said that the year 2014 is the International Year of Family. He also promised to give the elder generation a hongbao, or red envelop, to help them live a better life. The details will be announced later.