SINGAPORE: On Friday (Feb 9), the eve of the Lunar New Year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared his CNY message over Facebook with a special little something for young families.

As the Year of the Rabbit is ushered out and the Year of the Dragon is ushered in, the Prime Minister said he hopes “more couples will be encouraged this year to add a ‘little dragon’” to their families.

Indeed, his message, which can be found in full in English and Mandarin here, is centred around the importance of family, pledging to support Singaporeans’ marriage and parenthood aspirations.

“Families are at the heart of our society. It is a great joy for parents to bring kids into this world, and to watch them learn and grow, reaching one milestone after another and growing up year by year,” he wrote, adding that “Many Chinese families consider a child born in the Dragon year to be especially auspicious.”

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PM Lee acknowledged that some young couples may have different priorities and defer having children in pursuit of these while “not realising how quickly it gets harder with each passing year.”

He also recognized that having a child “is a very personal decision.”

Read related: Singapore birth rate record low: Nearly 8% drop in 2022

In July 2023, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) released data showing that there had been a nearly 8 per cent decrease in the country’s birth rate in 2022. Additionally, Singapore has also seen the largest number of yearly deaths since 1960.

“Singapore has been facing declining birth rates and decreasing fertility rates in recent years,” Statista noted.

Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate TFR for 2022 also hit a historic low of 1.05 births per woman. In 2020 and 2021, it was at 1.1 and 1.12, respectively. A total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is needed to ensure a broadly stable population.

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PM Lee said in his message, “We have progressively strengthened support for infant caregiving and work-life harmony, to see parents through their children’s formative years. Recently we doubled Government-Paid Paternity Leave from two to four weeks on a voluntary basis.

Measures like these will lighten the burden on parents, but they are merely enablers. Ultimately, couples will decide whether to have children for their own reasons. I hope more will decide to go ahead, and I am confident they will find parenthood a deeply rewarding and fulfilling journey.

Entering the Dragon year, let us press forward with optimism and determination. I wish all Singaporeans good health, and a very happy Chinese New Year.” /TISG