Sunday 28 October 2012

Comprehensive Package to Increase Birth Rate Expected in 2013

Help package to boost birth rate out next year
Measures will address childcare, housing and other needs: Minister
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2012

A COMPREHENSIVE package of measures to encourage Singaporeans to marry and have babies, by addressing housing, childcare and other needs, is expected to be announced early next year.

More details will be given around the time the Government issues a White Paper on population in January, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing revealed in an interview.

The package is the latest effort in an ongoing national push to raise Singapore's birth rate, which at 1.2 is far below the replacement figure of 2.1 needed to prevent the citizen population from shrinking.

At the National Day Rally in August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had outlined some of the measures being studied to encourage parenthood.

They included giving couples with young children higher priority for Housing Board flats, starting a Medisave account for each newborn with a "small hongbao" to lessen the load of childhood medical expenses, and allowing fathers to take paternity leave.

Mr Lee had also noted that low- and middle-income families should get more help for infant care and childcare.

Asked if more subsidies for such care were in the pipeline, Mr Chan would say only with a laugh: "We're looking into it."

However, he took pains to stress that while the Government will do its part on the material aspects, whether or not the measures work will ultimately depend on each individual's decision to marry and have children. This, he noted, is still a personal one that involves values.

"Every personal decision has to balance with your own values - what you prioritise in life, what are your own aspirations, material or otherwise," he said. "If an individual cannot come to that balance, then no matter how hard we do the rest, it will not tilt the balance."

This is also why the Government's hope to raise Singapore's total fertility rate from 1.2 to at least 1.4 or 1.5 is a "stretch target", he added.

Mr Chan had mentioned the package while talking about the plans and priorities his ministry will embark on when it is renamed the Ministry of Social and Family Development next Thursday.

The present Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports will hand over its youth and sports portfolios to a newly created Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

This new ministry will also take over the arts, culture and heritage functions from the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, which will be renamed the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).

Mr Lawrence Wong has been appointed MCCY's Acting Minister, while Dr Yaacob Ibrahim will helm the MCI. Both men also spoke to The Straits Times' Insight about their priorities.

Mr Wong said the formation of the new ministry and the reorganisation of the other two ministries reflect the Government's recognition of changing trends and demands among Singaporeans.

"Perhaps they have been amplified further after the election," he said, referring to last year's watershed General Election. "But they are not new. They have been there for some time, whether it's the widening income gap, the challenges with communication, or the desire for something deeper, for good quality of life in Singapore."

No comments:

Post a Comment