Singapore's total fertility rate hit historic low of 1.05 in 2022: Indranee Rajah
SINGAPORE — Singapore’s total fertility rate hit a historic low of 1.05 in 2022, down from 1.12 the year before, Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said on Friday (Feb 24).
- Singapore’s total fertility rate hit a historic low of 1.05 in 2022, down from 1.12 in 2021
- The National Population and Talent Division still expects Singapore's total population to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030
- Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, addressed concerns and suggestions brought up by Members of Parliament at the Budget 2023 debate
- These included competition with foreigners in the workforce and better ways to support families
SINGAPORE — Singapore’s total fertility rate hit a historic low of 1.05 in 2022, down from 1.12 the year before, Ms Indranee Rajah said in Parliament on Friday (Feb 24).
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office said that this was partly due to the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar, which is generally associated with lower births among the Chinese, but there are also longer-term trends at play.
The aspiration to marry and have children remains strong in Singapore, but more people are postponing marriage and postponing having children or having fewer children, she added.
Ms Indranee, who is also Second Minister for Finance and National Development, was speaking on Friday (Feb 24) during a debate on the budget for the Prime Minister's Office, which includes the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD).
She also said that NPTD still expects Singapore's total population to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030.
The division last gave an update on this in Parliament in 2018, when it said the same thing.
"The planning parameter of 6.9 million remains relevant for the 2030s," Ms Indranee said on Friday. "Our aim is, as it always has been, to build better lives for current and future generations of Singaporeans."
Looking beyond 2030, it is critical that Singapore continues to plan ahead of time, to maintain the flexibility to adjust its plans, respond to new trends and safeguard options for the future, she added.
"This will help us to provide a good quality living environment and home for all Singaporeans.”
The 6.9 million figure was first introduced in a 2013 Population White Paper and became a talking point during the 2020 General Election, when Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat debunked a claim by Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan that the Government was targeting for Singapore to have a population of 10 million.
WHY IT MATTERS
Singapore’s total fertility rate, which is the average number of live births each female would have during her reproductive years, has been declining since 1980, data from the Department of Statistics Singapore shows.
This decline is not unique to Singapore. South Korea, which now has the world’s lowest total fertility rate, said that its rate dropped to a new low of 0.78 last year.
China’s population also shrank for the first time in more than six decades and its annual number of births has nearly halved when compared to six years ago, Ms Indranee noted.
Singapore’s lower total fertility rate is also coupled with its ageing population, as resident life expectancy continues to grow. This will affect Singapore in the following ways, she said:
- Increasing challenge to sustain economic growth as growth of resident workforce slows
- Intensified caregiving needs as family sizes shrink
- A growing "sandwich" class facing dual pressures of raising young children and caring for their older parents
MAINTAINING A COHESIVE SOCIETY
In her speech, Ms Indranee also spoke about immigration, saying that immigrants continue to play an important role in moderating the impact of ageing and low birth rates in Singapore's population.
Singapore granted 23,100 new citizenships last year, of which 1,300 were to children born overseas to Singaporean parents, and 34,500 new permanent residencies.
Most new citizens and permanent residents are aged 40 and below.
These numbers are slightly higher than in pre-Covid years because travel restrictions during the pandemic delayed in-person processes to grant citizenships and permanent residency, Ms Indranee said.
Although most Singaporeans understand why the country needs immigrants, there are understandably concerns over competition for jobs and other resources, how the texture and character of Singapore society could change and whether the infrastructure can keep up, she noted.
Singapore considers very carefully who is allowed in as immigrants, she said.
"When granting permanent residency or citizenship, we look at a comprehensive set of factors, including an individual’s family ties to Singaporeans, economic contributions, qualifications, family profile, age and how long they have stayed in Singapore."
All new adult citizens come from within the existing pool of permanent residents, which means that they have been in Singapore for some time already, she added.
Second-generation permanent residents serve National Service and in the process, forge bonds with other citizens and contribute to the nation's defence, she said.
"We must welcome newcomers and help them integrate into our society. At the same time, newcomers should respect our values and norms and make efforts to adapt to our way of life."
THE NEED FOR FOREIGN TALENT
In her speech, Ms Indranee also responded to questions and suggestions raised by Members of Parliament (MPs) over the last three days during a debate on the Government's Budget.
Some had spoken about how Singaporean workers have to compete against foreigners in the workplace, she noted.
To them, she said that Singapore has to stay open to foreign manpower to fill skill shortages in the labour market, boost the capacity of the economy and support innovation.
"Even as we strengthen the quality of our local workforce, there are not enough Singaporeans to meet all our economic and social needs," she said.
“We fully understand Singaporeans’ concerns with job competition and remain committed to ensuring that Singaporeans can compete fairly and strongly."
To this end, the Government has raised qualifying salaries for foreign workers and introduced the Complementarity Assessment Framework to ensure that Singapore’s foreign workforce complements, rather than displaces, the domestic workforce, she said.
Ms Indranee also addressed concerns and suggestions raised by MPs about how to better support families.
Some, for example, had called for more to be done to encourage companies to adopt flexible work arrangements to make it easier for caregivers and parents to juggle work and caregiving duties.
Ms Indranee said that there are plans to roll out an updated set of guidelines on flexible work arrangements in 2024, which would encourage employers to fairly and properly consider requests for flexi-work.
In response to concerns about the rising cost of raising children, she said that the budget’s enhanced Baby Bonus cash gift and Child Development Account would help defray expenses.
Related topicsBudget 2023 ageing population birth rate
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