By Jillian Colombo and Aretha Sawarin Chinnaphongse
In its third MeetPSP webinar on Thursday (June 11), one of the questions posed to the panellists of the Progress Singapore Party was on what proposals the party had to boost Singapore’s birth rates.
Dr Ang Yong Guan responded by highlighting why he thought the current methods to boost birth rates have not been successful. Firstly, he spoke of how women today are not incentivised to give birth and are perhaps even disincentivised to do so. He cited the high cost of living and the stress of studying as reasons why child-bearing is perceived as a “daunting feat” for women.
With regard to the education system and the stress of studying, Dr Ang stated that there should be broader definitions of success to ensure that a child can be brought up in a favourable climate. More than just academic success, non-academic success should hold the same weight and importance.
Singapore should not just be an “economic hub”, he said, it should also be an “arts or sports centre”. With a wider definition of success, women would not be pressured into spending even more money on additional activities for their children, like tuition or enrichment classes, and children will be able to pursue their own passions and find their own success. This is one key aspect to encouraging women to reproduce, according to Dr Ang.
Moreover, with plans put in place to increase the population by “importing” more foreigners, the stress women (and also their spouses) face is exacerbated.
Dr Ang said this is a futile measure as not only are the replacement rates not improving but also the prospect of raising a child who might face intense competition in the future in the workplace continues to make women shun child-rearing. This is especially so when complemented with issues such as a high cost of living and a stressful education system.
Ultimately, he urged for a more “conducive” environment for both baby and mother, to “live in a great city with a high quality of life”.
Hence, to combat this problem from a more economical angle, the PSP intends to have a policy to make housing more affordable. According to Mr S Nallakaruppan, the party’s Treasurer, it wants to introduce a “Rent-To-Own Scheme” whereby people can rent a house for the first 5 years, and if they are financially comfortable to own it by the end of 5 years, they can choose to own it or they could also just continue renting it.
He said: “To increase fertility, need a proper home, not just a couch.” He added that what the people need is assurance, a home and stability of life so that it will be easier to start a family.
Dr Ang added that the PSP is considering giving a monthly bonus of $500 for a second and third child up to the age of 10 years in an effort to boost fertility rates. /TISG