Singapore—According to the Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2018, the number of babies born in 2018 is the lowest in eight years. The Straits Times (ST) reports that Singapore’s current fertility rate has slid below the level needed for replacing population loss.
There is a 1.5 percent drop in the number of babies from the previous year since only 39,039 babies were born in 2018.
Meanwhile, the number of deaths has increased by 1.8 percent. 21,282 died last year, in comparison to 20,905 the year before, said a report from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
This means Singapore’s aging society will face even more issues.
The number of deaths has been on the increase since at least 1998. In that year, 15,657 deaths were recorded.
The total fertility rate of the country has also decreased. In 2018 it was 1.14, which is down from 1.16 the year before.
Both these figures are below the rate of replacement of 2.1 percent.
The ST report says Tan Ern Ser, a sociologist from the National University of Singapore, said that this slide in the number of births is generally expected to continue. This is a matter of concern since a country’s population should be being replenished in order to ensure that the economy’s ability to support an aging society is sustained, he said.
And according to Associate Professor Kang Soon-Hock of the Singapore University of Social Sciences, the trend in birth statistics are reflective of present socio-economic trends, including more and more people choosing singleness, or choosing marriage and having a family later than in previous years, the ST report said.
However, according to the director of the Centre for Family and Population Research at NUS, Professor Jean Yeung, other factors such as growing uncertainty from worldwide financial instability, climate change, and digital disruption could also cause a slide in birth rates. Professor Yeung said that these factors may “prompt couples to think even more carefully about whether to bring a baby into the world or not.”
The median age for first-time mothers has also gone up. In 2009, it was 29.7, while last year, it was 30.6. Since fertility lowers the older a woman gets, Professor Yeung said this is a cause for concern.
“Women’s ovarian reserves drop with age, so the possibility of pregnancy also falls.” Dr Tan Kai Lit, an obstetrician, and gynaecologist at the Thomson’s Woman Clinic said earlier this month.
The ST report said that according to Paulin Straughan, Singapore Management University professor of sociology (practice), employers must do more to aid their employees in finding a balance. She said, “Human resource departments should review their evaluation frameworks and make sure we don’t overly reward and encourage the over-committed.”
Recently, Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor, said that Singaporeans who are living longer can help to offset the low birth rates if more of them continue working for longer.
Dr Khor acknowledged that a higher life expectancy is naturally accompanied by “disease burden and frailty that comes with old age,” but at the same time, she called a higher life expectancy an “opportunity” for older Singaporeans to participate in the labour force especially since the birth rate is low.
“This brings opportunities for greater labour force participation at older ages, and is important for a country like Singapore where birth rates are relatively low,” she said. / TISG