Singapore's total fertility rate drops to historic low of 1.05
Singapore's total fertility rate has been falling for many years. The previous low was 1.1 in 2020.
SINGAPORE: Singapore's resident total fertility rate hit an all-time low of 1.05 in 2022, dipping below the previous record of 1.1 in 2020 and 1.12 in 2021.
"This was partly due to the Tiger year in the Lunar calendar, which is generally associated with lower births among the Chinese," Minister in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Indranee Rajah said in Parliament on Friday (Feb 24).
In 2010, which was also a Tiger year, the total fertility rate was 1.15, lower than the years before and after.
Speaking during the PMO's Committee of Supply debate, Ms Indranee noted that the country's total fertility rate has been declining for many years, like other advanced societies.
The total fertility rate refers to the average number of live-births each woman would have during her reproductive years.
Singapore's figure has been below 1.2 since 2017.
South Korea currently has the world’s lowest total fertility rate at 0.78 in 2022.
More people in Singapore are postponing marriage, Ms Indranee noted, adding that more couples are also delaying having children or having fewer children.
This is in line with longer-term global societal trends. It also comes as people in Singapore are living longer.
The resident life expectancy at birth has risen to more than 83 years today, up from 72 years in 1980. Around one in four Singapore citizens will be aged 65 and above by 2030.
Singapore will find it “increasingly challenging” to sustain economic growth as the resident workforce increases at a slower rate, Ms Indranee said.
As family sizes shrink, caregiving needs will also intensify.
“More Singaporeans will face the dual pressures of raising young children while caring for their elderly parents – and in fact, this is already happening,” she added.
SUPPORT FOR PARENTS, FAMILIES
Ms Indranee said there has been feedback about difficulties in getting access to reliable infant care.
"We will be reviewing how we can better support new parents in caring for their infants," she added.
Laying out the measures announced at Budget 2023 to boost support for parents and families, Ms Indranee noted that government-paid paternity leave for eligible working fathers will be doubled to four weeks for children born from Jan 1 next year, and companies are encouraged to offer flexible work arrangements.
Among those applying for Build-to-Order flats, first-timer families with children and younger married couples will get greater priority, including an additional ballot.
Housing grants for first-timer families buying resale flats will increase by up to S$30,000 as well, which the Ministry of National Development will elaborate on at its Committee of Supply debate.
The Government has also increased the Baby Bonus Cash Gift by S$3,000 and will contribute more to the Child Development Account.
CITIZENSHIP AND PERMANENT RESIDENCIES
Welcoming immigrants to Singapore plays an important part in moderating the impact of an ageing population and low birth rates, said Ms Indranee, who is also Second Minister for Finance and National Development.
"While most Singaporeans understand why we need immigrants, there are, understandably, concerns over competition for jobs and other resources, and how the texture and character of our society could change, and whether our infrastructure can keep up," she told the House.
"Since the tightening of our immigration framework in late 2009, we have maintained a measured and stable pace of immigration."
Last year, Singapore granted about 23,100 new citizenships, including around 1,300 to children born overseas to Singaporean parents. Around 34,500 new permanent residencies were granted.
“The numbers of new citizenships and PRs granted in 2022 were slightly higher than pre-COVID,” Ms Indranee said. In 2019, Singapore granted 22,714 citizenships and 32,915 permanent residencies.
Some approved applicants in 2020 and 2021 had not completed the in-person processes, which were slowed down because of pandemic-related travel restrictions and safe management measures.
Others could not apply because they were not able to complete the necessary processes to submit the application. “Hence, some of these applications were rolled over into 2022," she explained.
Ms Indranee added that Singapore considers a “comprehensive set of factors” when granting citizenship or PR status, including the applicant’s family ties to Singaporeans, economic contributions, qualifications, family profile, age and how long they have stayed in the country.
“This ensures that new immigrants are rooted, able to integrate and contribute meaningfully here,” she said, adding that new adult citizens come from within the pool of PRs.