SINGAPORE: Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) fell to a historic low of 1.1 last year, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Indranee Rajah on Friday (Feb 26).
She said that the COVID-19 pandemic caused some Singaporeans to postpone their marriage, resulting in about 10 per cent fewer marriages last year than in 2019. Others have delayed their parenthood plans, she added.
Ms Indranee, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division under the PMO, was speaking in Parliament during the Committee of Supply debate.
East Asian societies like South Korea and Taiwan, as well as Scandinavian countries known for achieving good fertility outcomes like Finland and Norway also experienced a drop in TFR, she noted.
"Raising fertility is an uphill task for advanced societies, but we must continue to support those who wish to marry and have children," said Ms Indranee, who is also Second Minister for Finance and for National Development.
She announced during the debate that the Government will increase its dollar-for-dollar matching in the Child Development Account for a second child from S$3,000 to S$6,000.
TFR refers to the average number of live-births each woman would have during her reproductive years. The resident TFR has been gradually declining over the past decades and was 1.14 in 2019.
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Ms Indranee also told MPs that Singapore will continue to "carefully calibrate" the pace of immigration.
In 2020, Singapore gained about 21,100 new citizens and 27,500 new permanent residents. These figures are lower than previous years due to travel restrictions and operational issues arising from COVID-19, she said.
For example, safe management measures resulted in limited slots to complete the final steps for PR and citizenship registration, which must be done in person. A few thousand applicants, who were approved in-principle, had not completed all the required processes to be granted their PR or citizenship by the end of 2020.
Depending on how the COVID-19 situation evolves, these applicants could be granted PR or citizenship in the coming months, and may add to the numbers normally granted this year, Ms Indranee said.
From June 2019 to June 2020, Singapore's total population declined slightly by 0.3 per cent due to a decrease in foreign employment in the services sector, and Work Permit Holders. S Pass and Employment Pass holders have also decreased amid the pandemic due to travel restrictions and the economic downturn.
"The Government continues to maintain a tight stance on our foreign worker manpower policy," she said.