In September, the Prime Minister’s Office Strategy Group published the annual Population in Brief report, which disclosed that 2017 saw the lowest birth rate the nation has seen since 2014. Conversely, there were 24,417 marriages involving at least one Singaporean, the highest in a decade, with more than one in three citizen marriages “transnational” or mixed-race.
The decline in birth rate can be attributed to the increased number of singles in most age groups, especially among Singaporean women aged 25 to 29.
The biggest increase was among Singaporean women aged 25 to 29 – seven in 10 in this age group were single in 2017 compared to six in 10 in 2007. For the men in the same age group, about eight in 10 were single last year.
“This is due partly to a larger cohort of young Singaporeans (aged 19 to 29 in 2017) – many of whom are children of baby boomers – who are entering the peak childbearing ages, but have not yet had children,” said the report.
In 2017, there were 32,356 babies born as a result of citizen unions, compared to 33,167 in 2016. In conjunction with the drop in birth rate, the resident total fertility rate fell from 1.2 in 2016 to 1.16 in 2017.
In 2007, the average age that Singaporeans were giving birth for the first time was 29.4. In the last four years, it dropped to an average of 30.3.
Meanwhile, the proportion of Singaporean women from ages 30 and 39 who are or have been married but are childless remained stable at 22.6 in 2017 and 2016.
For older Singaporean women aged 40 to 49, the figure dropped ever so slightly from 11.2 in 2016 to 10.9 in 2017.
The reason the city-state is seeing a drop in birth rate is that most young Singaporeans in their 20s are hesitant to make babies when finances and career are still major concerns. The top two reasons couples in Singapore are choosing to wait before having children are money and mental readiness.
According to The Asian Parent Singapore, one of the most uttered phrases by young couples is “Having children in Singapore is not cheap.”
With the majority of families having two working parents, the need for reliable childcare or infant care is urgent. Not everyone has family that can help look after their babies, and this is where child care services prove their value. That being said, with the costs of childcare and infant care skyrocketing, more couples are pushing their childbearing plans back and some are thinking twice about having children at all.
While the birth numbers have decreased, 2017 saw a rise in the number of citizen marriages in Singapore. Citizen marriages are marriages where at least one spouse is Singaporean. The vogue of mixed-race or translational marriages has consumed Singapore, with figures at more than one in every three marriages, following the steady increase over the past decade.
Sociologists say the steady rise in inter-ethnic marriages over the years is the result of two trends: 1) More foreigners are working or studying in Singapore while more Singaporeans are venturing overseas and 2) the traditional preference for marrying within the race has declined, with people being more educated and liberal in their values and perspectives.
“The figures give us hope that in terms of racial integration, we are truly a melting pot as marriage is the greatest show of acceptance (of someone of another race). It’s also a reflection that marrying outside one’s race is no longer a big deal,” said Paulin Straughan, sociologist at the Singapore Management University.
Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Dr. Mathew Mathews said that with more mixed marriages taking place, this has made such unions more commonplace occurrence and therefore assuaged apprehensions around entering into a mixed-race relationship.