I. Introduction The economy of Singapore is increasing rapidly yet it is also facing the threat of declining birth rate which causes the aging population. This fact is cited in two articles of Wendy Tan and Grace Chua from The Strait Times Interactive Website which are attached in this report. It can be argued that Singapore is not alone among developed nations in having a declining birth rate, however, the aging population, for a small population like Singapore, can be quite serious.
It has also been noted that family and marriage are not only the private matters left to individual but also have impacts on our nation and society. Therefore, it is very important for the entire community to find out the problems and solutions for them as well. This can be support and strengthen the formation of families to raise birth rate of Singapore. As can be seen from these two articles, some reasons were shown such as rising infertility rate, liberal view towards marriage commitment, child-bearing, pragmatic government etc.
This paper, hence, aims to evaluate these causes individually based on the theories of Kou & Wong (1979), Salaff (1997) and Straughan (1999) as well as give some recommendations, add some reasons that have not included in the articles and argument in other side of this matter. II. Extent of the problem In recent year, we have seen a gradual shift in long-held attitudes towards relationships, marriage and family. More Singaporeans are remaining single, delaying marriage and having fewer children. More Singaporeans place priorities on careers and other material life goals. All of these factors lead to the decreased birth rate in Singapore.
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Hence, we look at three main problems: The family values, the work and family environment and the role of government. These problems can be the reasons for the outcomes stated above. 1. Family values Values are ideas or beliefs that individuals acquire overtime.
What we deem to be important in life is shaped very much by these values. Values guide the decision that we make: our relationship, our work and life as a whole as well as the responsibilities that come with them. Just as families are the basic building of blocks of society, values are the foundations that underpin the family. Singapore is now experiencing tremendous changes in society in the past few decades, especially in family values. Globalization and technological change have created new views for Singaporeans. The Internet has further promoted exchanges among people, fusing cultures and experiences.
Our spheres of influence are no longer confined to only we read, see or hear in our own society. In another words, it have expanded beyond our immediate environment. As Kou & Wong stated, with a rising standard of living and education, the social relations are more modern (or “Western” in the context of Asian societies) traits characteristic of industrial societies: 1. 1. The change in the roles of women: The ChannelNewAsia provide that the female labor participation rate in Singapore is very high.
This fact was explained by Straughan, Kou & Wong and Salaff. They cited that with the advent of industrialization, the feminist movement and the increasing in access to better education have created. Therefore, the increased independence and sophistication of women have removed the need for a provider through marriage; women no longer need to marry for economic reasons. It also have created the intrinsic marriage’s expectations of women, they now marry for companionship, romantic love and mutual respect. This makes women thinking of marriage as a very intensive and time-consuming social institution. Moreover, these expectations are sometimes unrealistic about their life partners which make them difficult to find one suitable for them.
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As a matter of fact, the mean age for the first marriage of women is 26. 8. Many delay marriages as they want to build up their careers, are put off by high wedding expenses or prefer to wait for the ideal person to come along. Some even choose to remain single.
1. 2. A sense of difficult parenting In her article, Grace Chua stated that some couples interviewed also worry that they cannot be perfect parents. This also is the most problematic issue which was mentioned by Straughan. Parents have to bear full responsibility of taking care of their children. But they are working in the fast paced, stressful environment which requires them to spend most of their time.
Hence, they cannot set aside the time to take care and pay attention on their children. Moreover, the contemporary ideology of true womanhood sustains the image of a “supermom” – a devoted mother, a supportive and capable wife for both her children and husband regardless of her working status. As a result, many women choose remain single instead of being a full-time homemaker or play a role as a “supermom.” 1. 3.
The rising individualism and liberalism Grace Chua also mentioned that many couples have not prepared to give their freedom up in order to accommodate children. Accompanying modern economic development, Singaporeans are adopting “Western” social values. This implies the rising individualism and liberalism in the “me-first” society, commitment to marriage is running counter to the pursuit of self-satisfaction. As a result, many regard priority on career and other life goals in place of families; adopts increasingly liberal views towards sexual intimacy, marriage commitment, child-bearing etc. This issue also results in delay marriage of Singaporeans. The mean age at first marriage for both sexes increased 2.
5 years between 1982 and 2000, to 29. 8 and 26. 8 respectively for men and women. 2.
Work and family environment Work and family have become highly interdependent with the rise of dual-income families. They are replacing the pre-dominant form of family which is single-income. Individuals face the time-bind as work becomes all consuming in the knowledge economy, leaving them with the little time for their families. Many individuals find it difficult to cope effectively with work and family responsibilities without provisions in the work environment such as flexi-schemes and telecommuting.
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As a result, it causes stress in dual-earner families and they have more difficult to have more children. It also leads to the increasing infertility in Singapore which can be the results as married couples do not spend enough time together due to work pressures. In addition, employers expect their employees to attach greater priority to the company and spend much time as needed. As a matter of fact, they’d rather remain single than start a family in order to get a steady job, especially when Singapore is in the recession. They also have little time to spend socializing and meeting potential spouses. Therefore, many young people – more educated ones in particular – not willing to settle for the first person they meet.
Besides, there are more married women in employment. While the culture of gender roles has changed, the practice remains traditional. Once married, most women usually take full responsibility for housework when they hold full-time jobs. 3. The role of government A dramatic fall in the birth rate has changed the family planning policy from “Two is enough” to “Have three or more, if you can afford it” and has become the primary concern of government. Some may perceive that marriage, family and child-bearing are private matters and that choices should be left to the individuals.
However, these can have collective impact on Singapore nation and society. Therefore, it is important for the entire community as well as government to become involved in bringing the importance of the family to public consciousness. In fact, Singapore’s pragmatic government is offering money and incentives to encourage people to have more children. For example, tax rebates for parents having two or more children; the Baby Bonus and 3 rd Child Maternity scheme were introduced in April 2001 to further support parents who wish to have larger families; Edusave, etc.
However, it turned out not effective enough. They do not address issues of values, attitudes and life choices adequately. It also does not strengthen marriages intrinsically. As mentioned in the article of Wendy Tan, money would not feature in the decision of having more children. Therefore, they may not sustainable in the long run – the government cannot continue to give more tax incentives or cash grants. Financial incentives can only be part of a total package of measures.
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III. Other problems: These three articles address some fundamental reasons to explain the declining in birth rate. However, besides these, there are some more reasons for this trend. Firstly, traditionally, people in Southeast Asia lived in extended families.
Nevertheless, Singapore is not that case. It has been an urban society and most people live with their immediate families in apartments even before industrialization. Today, about 78% of families in Singapore are made up of parents and children only. The average household size is four persons. This proves that the nuclear is not the emergence of industrialized but adapts itself to the modern industrial system.
With the increasing in living standard, education and “Western” views, there is also a new breed of better-educated Singaporeans who want smaller families. Secondly, there are also some young adults enter marriage without careful consideration. When couples compare their married life with the ideals they had embraced, many are disappointed and disillusioned. This causes the marriage fails which sends a strong signal to those around that the marriage is not necessarily always rewarding. IV.
Other side of problem Firstly, we can see that there is a trend in decreasing birth rate in Singapore. But there are still a lot of Singaporeans enjoy in having children. They think that the perfect parent is a myth; they can make mistakes along the way but what is important is that they learn from them and improve on their parenting skill. Secondly, the Edusave incentive of government is creating dissatisfaction of Singaporeans. It only accounts for the first 3 children which can discourage would-be parents from having a fourth child unless they have the material means to do so. The Baby Bonus could be handed out for the first child, instead of only for the subsequent ones because after all, the decision to have the first child is usually the toughest.
Moreover, free medical care will put a greater load on the Government and, in turn, on the people. Thirdly, although some may label young married couples unwilling to give up their lifestyle to start a family as selfish, it may be unfair to impose social ideals on every marriage. Encouraging couples to have children may increase Singapore’s birth rate but it also creates the cost. Parents may end up with more parents sending their babies to 24-hour care-centers because they do not have much time taking care of their children.
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Therefore, the best thing should be done is to support couples who are committed to bringing up their children well, and not pressure those who are not keen on being parents into having children. V. Conclusion Declining in birth rate is affecting the society as well as the economy of Singapore. Therefore: 1.
In the short-run, the government should implement more effectively in giving incentives to Singaporeans. For example: . The MediSave should also be given for the fourth child. One of the main reasons couples delay having children is the difficulty of finding childcare. Therefore, the Government should consider waiving the Foreign Maid Levy for new parents for a period of 12 to 18 months, until the child is old enough to be taken care of at a cr ” echo… The medical costs incurred by the baby can also be quite significant in his first two years.
If the Government were to extend the 100 percent Medisave cover to include this bill, it would be go a long way in persuading couples that having a baby is not that expensive after all… The Baby Bonus could be handed out for the first child instead of only for the subsequent ones 2. In the long run, the government should focus more on: . Facilitating the setting up of a range of affordable and accessible family services, such as flexible childcare, student-care and family day-care schemes to increase the care options for parents. Working with the community to promote family life education…
Encouraging developers to incorporate family-friendly features in their buildings. Working with employers to promote good work-life practices. Employers can help by offering flexi-work hours, part-time work and telecommuting… Supporting parents to prepare for parenthood better. They can draw from family, community and government resources to support them in bringing up their children.
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