Singapore struggles to raise fertility rate   2011-02-26 14:58:33 FeedbackPrintRSS


Days after the release of record low fertility rate statistics, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), a women' s campaign organization, called for paternity leave to be mandated by law.

It cited the findings of a survey to call for a mandatory two weeks' paternity leave, as well as the fourth month of maternity leave to be changed to "parental leave" that can be taken by either parent. Such a move would provide "better support for parenting responsibilities and policies that promote gender equality," it said.

It is now mandatory for employers to give new mothers four months of parenting leave.

Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan said the government would look at ways to help single young people find partners as more people were staying single and the married put off having babies.

"We know the vast majority of people do want to get married; we need to help them find the right partner and also see what other needs they feel need to be addressed so they can settle down early and start a family," he said.

Balakrishnan said married couples on average have about two children, which is "healthy."


The government did not give much of a boost to the incentives in the recent budget. Wong, the deputy prime minister, said the government could review the schemes including the baby bonus as early as next year.

He has said that the government would continue to encourage couples to have more children, but admitted that it would take time to raise the fertility rate. The Nordic model, where fertility rate falls were reversed with paternity leave and highly subsidized child care may not work for Singapore, and it would be guaranteed "even if we do anything right now," the Straits Times on Saturday quoted him as saying.

Some policy makers have argued that the reversal in fertility rate in the Scandinavian countries was mainly due to more children born outside of marriage.

Wong said Singapore would need to tap on immigration for the foreseeable future to support economic growth and mitigate the impact of population aging.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has said Singapore would eventually adopt the generous but expensive measures to raise fertility rate. Wong did not rule out the adoption of such measures in the future, either.

"If there are things we can learn, and if they work because of that, then certainly, we will have to learn how to adopt that," he said.

Editor: Yang Lina

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