The Singapore government has introduced housing incentives to encourage families to have more children. Under this scheme, families who own property can convert their home to a larger one after the birth of a third child. If they own a 3-bedroom flat or a larger HDB flat after the birth of their third child, they will receive a preferential allocation retroactively for 3 years when they apply for another flat.
The Baby Bonus scheme is another Singapore initiative to encourage families to have more children. The Singaporean government’s methods of encouraging couples to have children through payouts have been criticized as ineffective and throwing money at the problem. VWO Love Children tried a softer approach to promoting fertility and early parenthood through outdoor advertising, but was rejected by the public as offensive and in poor taste.
Singapore also launched a family planning campaign promoting sterilization and abortion. Lee Kuan Yew , Singapore Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990, complained that improved education for women led to a lopsided reproductive pattern in which those who were educated had fewer children. The government sought to redress this balance by, among other things, offering tax breaks for graduates with large families and cash for educated women undergoing sterilization.
Beginning with establishing the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board in 1966 to encourage family planning, the Singapore government faced food and housing shortages after the war. In the 1960s, the government encouraged women, especially uneducated women, to undergo sterilization after the birth of their second child. With three-quarters of the population being ethnic Chinese and less educated, a policy that smelled of eugenics was unpopular.
Fearing that an out-of-control population would overwhelm the labor market, housing, and health care facilities, the government began its population control program in the 1960s. In phase one, civilian workers were not paid for maternity leave after the second child; hospital fees were higher for the second child; the best school choice was given only to children; and parents who had children before the age of 40 were not allowed to have children. After announcing the Three or More If You Can Afford It program in 1987, the government became more pro-natalist and continued its efforts to improve the quality and quantity of the population by preventing low-income families from having children.
Under the Family Planning and Population Board Act of 1965, young people were bombarded by officials, teachers and other counselors with slogans such as “No girls, no boys, two is enough.” At a time when four- and five-child families were the norm, experts warned that the population could swell to a staggering 5 million by 2000 and overwhelm the 239-square-mile city-state. To convince parents that less is better, Singapore legalized abortion and promoted voluntary sterilization.
Hospital fees go up when a woman has more children, working mothers get two paid maternity leaves, and families with third, fourth and other children are given less preference in school selection and enrolment.
Half a century ago, KK Womens and Childrens Hospital in the city of Little India set a record recognized by Guinness World Records for the most births in a hospital in the world. Its record of 39,835 births in 109 days in 1966, held for a decade, became a symbol of Singapore’s baby boom.
Since 1986, Singapore’s fertility rate has fallen from 14.3% to 4.85% in two decades. Valentine’s Day, let’s take a romantic trip down memory lane and look back at how the government envisioned the ideal Singaporean family back then.
Within two decades, from 1965 to 1986, the number of women in Singapore went from an average of 4 to 5 children to 1 to 2 children. Realizing that Singaporeans were not reproducing enough to replace themselves, the government launched a new campaign in 1987 to encourage parents to have three or more children if circumstances permitted. In recognition of the problem of overpopulation, the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board (SFPPB) was established.
The same can be seen in Singapore where the constant pressure of parents to provide a successful life for their children leads them to spend a lot of time and money on their offspring. To improve our birth rate, it is necessary to reduce the pressure on the competitiveness of our education system so that parents have more money, time and resources to have more children. I believe that the first step towards solving this problem is tuition in Singapore.
Families should look out for a variety of family bonding activities, such as parent-child crafts, parent-baby mass activities, etc. Parents should support their children and help them find peers with whom they have commonalities. In fact, 40% of preschool education should be given to parents with preschool age children.
To give parents the opportunity to learn from experts, there is the Embrace Parenthood movement to encourage exchanges between parents and families to form their own support networks and help each other and the community. Business organizations and community groups have also adopted the “Make a Family” brand to identify themselves as promoters of the value of family in our society. A government program to help couples marry and start a family has identified the reasons for starting a family in Singapore.
I Love Children (ILC) is a voluntary charity established in September 2005 with the aim of keeping Singapore young by promoting a high value on parenthood and educating couples on fertility and well-being. An initiative of National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) and Prime Minister’s Office Policy Group, Made for Families, aims to reassure Singapore families that with the support of the government and the community at large, we can emerge stronger from this crisis.
I Love Children (ILC) teaches Singaporeans the values and importance of parenthood and family, and promotes a child-friendly environment in Singapore. I love children joins hands with like-minded people to support couples with fertility issues as much as possible.
Some are deterred by perceived challenges in starting a family, such as lack of time for their children, lack of childcare or work-life imbalance. To help Singaporeans realize their dream of having a larger family, the Government has responded to these concerns by enhancing existing family-friendly policies and introducing new initiatives to create a supportive environment for starting and raising a family.
Thang Leng Leng speculates that the government’s campaign may have had a lasting negative effect on the government, the deputy director of the Center for Family and Population Research at Singapore’s National University. The question is whether the same government paternalism that encourages families to have fewer children for Singapore’s sake leads families to have more children for the same reasons.