New measures to boost birth rate to be introduced in August
By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 27 July 2008 2124 hrs
SINGAPORE: A new package of measures to raise Singapore’s baby count will be introduced next month, said Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.
Speaking at the 150th anniversary celebrations of the KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital on Sunday, Mr Wong warned that Singapore’s population could be hard hit if its total fertility rate is not boosted.
At its peak in 1966, doctors at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital delivered some 40,000 babies.
The hospital was also cited in the Guinness Book of Records between the 1950s and 1970s as the world’s busiest maternity hospital. But today, the story is quite different.
Mr Wong, who is also Minister-in-Charge of Population Issues, said: “It is a well-known fact that Singapore now has one of the lowest total fertility rates in the world at 1.29. If this rate is not increased, Singapore’s population will be halved beyond 2070, without an inflow of foreign immigrants.”
Despite the falling birth rate, the hospital did not scale back on its operations. Instead, it has expanded its medical and healthcare services.
Mr Wong said KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital is ready to deliver more babies, but the issue at hand is to find ways to encourage Singaporeans to get married and have more children.
Recent surveys showed that financial constraints, busy work schedules and lack of childcare support were top concerns that limit a larger family size.
Without giving away details, Mr Wong hinted that a new set of measures will be rolled out to help couples cope with work and family.
He said: “Hopefully, with a new package of measures, which will be announced next month, and a strong collective desire towards supporting family life in Singapore, our baby count will increase.
“Employers have to support better work-life practices, friends and relatives have to chip in to help, and most of all, Singaporeans must desire to get married and raise families in the first place. All these require a societal mindset change.”
Singapore is also studying the procreation policies of countries like Sweden and the United States.