Singapore’s biological clock is ticking, and she will do whatever it takes to have more babies.
The young nation is encouraging couples to marry and have babies to increase the Singaporean population. The government has increased its Marriage and Parenthood budget from $1.6 billion to $2 billion. Some benefits include one week of paternity leave for fathers, four weeks of maternal adoption leave for mothers who adopt Singaporean babies younger than two months, and increased financial assistance for the cost of fertility treatment from 50% to 75%. Baby cash gifts have also been increased from $4,000 to $6,000 for a family’s first and second child and from $6,000 to $8,000 for the third and fourth child. These new measures become effective on May 1, 2013, but companies are encouraged to adopt these changes on a voluntary basis as soon as possible.
So why the sudden and drastic measures to boost the population? Like developed East Asian states, Singapore has been combatting a low fertility rate and is now working towards making a comeback. Total fertility rate (TFR) was 1.2 in 2011 but has been estimated to have risen as high as 1.3 in 2012. Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the increased Marriage and Parenthood package will be viewed as a success if it can achieve a short-term goal of 1.4 TFR and 2.1 in the long run. To him, a rise in the Singaporean population translates to a rise in nationalism, the heartbeat of the state.
In his words, “Singaporeans are the core of society and the best and the most fundamental way to build a stronger Singaporean core is to encourage marriage and parenthood.”