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Couples hold back from starting families due to job security, costs

If software engineer Wilson Quah had a choice, he would rather work from home and look after his children.

The 37-year-old and his wife, 34, are waiting to move into their Build-To-Order flat, whose completion was delayed till end-2022 due to the pandemic.

Like him, his wife, who is in human resources, is busy with her career. But they are keen to start a family if they can secure more flexible work arrangements or family friendly policies at work, which would allow them to, say, fetch their children to and from school.

“I prefer not to outsource my kid’s care to a maid or childcare centre too much, and prefer more family time,” said Mr Quah, who is pursuing a master’s degree while balancing his job at a start-up.

Both currently work from home two days a week because of the pandemic.

Mr Quah said he would also be more inclined to start a family if the costs associated with raising a child are lower. However, he is under no pressure to have children soon.

“I don’t know how people made that decision in the past. Maybe they just accepted the responsibility and went with the flow. But for us Gen Y, there are definitely some structural differences,” he added.

Generation Y, or the millennials, are people born between 1981 and 1996.

“We received more formal education – most of our parents have only primary or secondary qualifications, while most of us today have tertiary education – and we also want to build our careers and be able to retire financially. Our needs and wants are different,” he said.

Survey results released by the National Population and Talent Division showed that the proportion of singles who wish to get married has been declining over the years.

Eighty per cent of those surveyed in 2021 said they wanted to get hitched, compared with 83 per cent in 2016, and 86 per cent in 2012.

Mr Calvin Chua, 38, said his wife Chin Pei Yie, 34, really wanted to start a family but had no success even with fertility treatments.

They stopped trying after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy and surgery.

“Other contributing factors like inflation, job security and instability around the globe have added to our doubts,” he said.

Mr Chua, a software developer whose wife is an accountant, said the cost of living, high population density and competition in Singapore put him off wanting to have a child.

“I worry about the future, whether it will be a good environment to have a child. It’s getting more and more fast-paced and crowded everywhere. My child may not have a chance of surviving this competitiveness. What if he or she can’t do well?”

Mr Quah, meanwhile, said he is keen to try for a child with his wife despite the uncertainty and sacrifices that they may have to make.

“It can be something that I can have with my wife, starting our own family and sharing that responsibility.”

He added: “I think it’s actually quite a blessing. So in some sense, you’ve already come so far, and then go ahead to the next level. It’s not easy to get through that, but there’s spiritual fulfilment and personal fulfilment.”

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