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Procreation key to strong S’porean core

SINGAPORE — Some Members of Parliament had wondered whether the Government is doing enough to encourage Singaporeans to get married earlier and have more children, with the Workers’ Party MPs going as far as describing the recently enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package as “half-hearted”.

SINGAPORE — Some Members of Parliament had wondered whether the Government is doing enough to encourage Singaporeans to get married earlier and have more children, with the Workers’ Party MPs going as far as describing the recently enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package as “half-hearted”.

In response, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Grace Fu yesterday laid out the various efforts to raise birth rates and cited real life examples of how the package has helped a couple, who is open to having a third child within the next few years.

She also stressed that “encouraging marriage and parenthood is fundamental to ensuring a strong Singaporean core, and this is central to our population policies”.

She pointed out that, while the Government will set the direction, it cannot achieve “mindset change” on its own. Even so, she listed what the Government can do to support the change: Among other things, it will help shift societal attitudes by taking various steps to address pre-school needs and workplace issues. The Government also works closely with community partners to spread pro-family messages and reach out to Singaporeans.

Ms Fu reiterated that allowing immigration does not mean the Government takes its marriage and parenthood objectives less seriously. She pointed to the comprehensive nature of the enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package — from addressing children’s education and healthcare needs, to more leave for working couples.

Ms Fu said: “These measures are not designed to replace the responsibility of parents, nor to reward Singaporeans for having children, because we believe that it is the responsibility of parents to raise their children.”

East Coast GRC MP Jessica Tan reiterated that “we shouldn’t belittle” the enhanced package. Noting Singaporeans’ concerns about the cost of raising children and the challenge of work-life balance, she said: “The policies, if (executed) well, can tilt this balance in favour of having children.”

Nee Soon GRC MP Patrick Tay also called on employers to do their bit in implementing family-friendly practices. He said: “Company culture and its management philosophy play an overriding role in determining whether flexible work arrangements will be effective.”

To reinforce the point that a strong Singaporean core can be maintained by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Liang Eng Hwa filed an amendment to the motion to endorse the White Paper.

Mr Liang wants the motion to, among other things, explicitly state that the White Paper “supports maintaining a strong Singaporean core by encouraging more Singaporeans to get married and have children, supplemented by a calibrated pace of immigration to prevent the citizen population from shrinking”.

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