Singapore

Optimism despite fall in fertility rate

More Singaporeans tied the knot last year but fewer babies born

Slightly more Singaporeans tied the knot last year but fewer had children, according to latest preliminary figures released yesterday.

There were just 68 more marriages, bringing the total to 23,873 unions where at least one spouse is a Singaporean. But fewer babies were born despite the increase in the number of young women in their peak child-bearing years.

Disclosing these figures, Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo said: "We have a relatively large cohort of young Singaporeans who are now entering into their peak child-bearing ages of 25 to 39.

"But many have not yet started having children."

Mrs Teo is the minister in charge of population matters.

The new data shows 33,161 Singaporean babies were born last year, about 600 fewer than in the previous year.

The drop pulled down the country's total fertility rate (TFR) to 1.20.

The TFR measures the average number of children per woman.

Optimism despite fall in fertility rate
Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine TeoST FILE PHOTO

It is below the previous year's 1.24, which is well below the 2.1 rate a population needs to replace itself.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said Singapore's TFR tends to fluctuate around the 1.2 level, adding: "As long as it's above 1, I think we're always grateful."

 

"More people getting married doesn't necessarily mean more people will have children," she added.

Another reason for the lower birth rate could be that some of last year's weddings were remarriages between older couples who are less likely to have children, she pointed out.

It is not unusual for people to have reached the zenith of their careers only to look back wishing they had set aside some time to grow a family of their own. Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo

But there is reason for optimism: Young people are still getting married and having children.

Mrs Teo highlighted two trends that suggest this.

First, Singaporeans are not getting married that much later in life. The median age when Singaporeans first marry has been stable since 2011: 28 years for women and 30 years for men.

Second, people are not having fewer children. Mrs Teo noted the number of children born each year in the last two years is above the annual average of 32,000 recorded for 2007 to 2016.

Also, the cohort of young people is larger as they are the offspring of baby boomers.

"We're seeing a second demographic hump as this wave of children move up into adulthood," said Associate Professor Straughan.

She added: "If we have policies in place that continue to make this a conducive place to get married and have children, then hopefully we can look forward to more encouraging news in the next few years."

Hedge fund analyst Howie Lee, 30, who got married last year, said he and his wife decided not to have children right away because they want to save enough money first.

He added: "If we can have a less competitive education system, and not worry whether they can find a good job later, that'd be helpful."

Mrs Teo said the Government will continue to support millennial families and hinted that new measures in housing, pre-school services, workplace and community support would be announced soon.

Mrs Teo encouraged millennials to start families while pursuing other goals like climbing the career ladder.

She said: "It is not unusual for people to have reached the zenith of their careers only to look back wishing they had set aside some time to grow a family of their own."

marriagebabynational university of singapore