Singapore’s fertility rate falls to below 1 for first time, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Singapore’s fertility rate falls to below 1 for first time

The resident total fertility rate (TFR) in Singapore dropped to below 1 for the first time in the Republic’s history.

Preliminary estimates indicate a resident TFR of 0.97 in 2023, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Indranee Rajah on Feb 28 in Parliament.

This figure remains below the replacement rate of 2.1 - the level at which a population replaces itself.

Speaking during the debate on the ministries’ budgets on population issues, Ms Indranee said the TFR, which refers to the average number of babies each woman would have during her reproductive years, has continued to fall.

It fell from 1.04 in 2022 and 1.12 in 2021.

The latest figure places Singapore among countries with the lowest birth rates globally, with South Korea topping the list at 0.72 in 2023.

Ms Indranee, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division, which is under the Strategy Group in the PMO, said there were 26,500 resident marriages and 30,500 resident births in 2023.

“Overall, however, there were fewer resident marriages and births annually on average over the last five years, as compared to the preceding five-year period.”

Singapore is confronted with the “twin demographic challenges of a persistently low fertility rate and an ageing population”, she said.

These challenges are not unique to Singapore, she added. For example, European countries like Italy and Spain continue to see a record low number of births year-on-year, while neighbouring Malaysia and Thailand also saw their fertility rates fall in 2022.

Ms Indranee gave various reasons for Singapore’s low fertility, including temporal reasons such as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting some couples’ marriage and parenthood plans.

She added: “Others cite concerns about the financial costs of child-raising, pressures to be an excellent parent, or difficulties managing work and family commitments.”

She said the falling numbers reflect a generational change in priorities, and young people may not even see marriage or parenthood as important life goals.

The falling TFR has serious implications for Singapore’s future, she added.

Families are getting smaller than before, and more couples have to care for both their children and their elderly parents.

She said: “With fewer births, we will face a shrinking workforce. It will be increasingly challenging to maintain our dynamism, attract global businesses and create opportunities for the next generation.”

She added that countries such as South Korea and Itay have already experienced this, and they are grappling with economic slowdowns and falling wages - which are further compounded by low fertility rates and the resulting demographic changes.

In 2023, the Government announced various measures to support marriage and parenthood, including the doubling of Government-paid paternity leave to four weeks from January 1 and increasing Baby Bonus benefits.

It has also supported the adoption of flexible work arrangements as part of efforts to help working parents manage jobs and family commitments. On this front, a tripartite work group is developing guidelines on flexible work arrangements that will be compulsory for employers to follow once they are implemented later in 2024.

babiesIndranee RajahFamily planning/policyCommittee of Supply 2024