THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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The Population Problem (Suggested Solutions)

Posted by inspir3d on August 31, 2006

“It is not just Singapore having the problem of aging population. According to UN 2005 Human Development Report, this is an issue faced by (except only 18 countries) every country and region across the globe. It is such a major problem that coincidentally, Newsweek’s feature story for the current issue is “Whatever happened to having babies?“.

There may be many reasons for the decline in birthrate. The more commonly cited reasons were generally financial concerns, the inability to find time to balance work and family, job stress, career etc.” …more (Cobalt Paladin)

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9 Responses to “The Population Problem (Suggested Solutions)”

  1. YCK said

    The suggestion to encourage earlier marriages sounds new. Few others seemed to have linked late marriages to lower birth rates. This may be onto something. Has anyone has sent this to the feedback unit?

  2. klimmer said

    I got a better suggestion – make both boys and girls do national service.

  3. Hi Yck,

    Haha! I don’t mind if any ministers or MPs suggest this idea during the parliament as long as the suggestions can help to reverse the trend of low birthrates. The don’t even need to reveal that they read it from a blog! ;p

  4. Hi Klimmer,

    Er… how would that help? Wouldn’t that likely to increase the age of first marriage?

  5. Dear Klimmer,

    Hmmm…. I think I get it already… I believe it’ll work too but may create another set of problems. Haha! :p

  6. atomic monkey said

    the 2.5 year NS cycle is a direct function of our population rate. So I dont really see how the period can be shortened.

    Most of what constitutes education requires accredition from a governing body which is outside of Singapore. Again cannot see how the throughput time can be reduced without compromising on quality.

  7. Hi Atomic Monkey,

    To address the declining birthrate, we’ll need:

    1. At least 3 children per couple.
    2. As fertility decreases dramatically after the age of 35 for women, married couples need to form their family at an earlier age than the current norm.

    The mean age of first marriage for grooms and brides are 30.5 and 27.3 respectively. Is it a coincident that the difference in years is about the number of years in NS? I suspect it isn’t. If that’s the case, even though NS cycle is a direct function of our population rate, we’ll need to revise that. Else, we may not have a population for us to protect anymore.

    Regarding education, we’ll really need to challenge the current norm. Who set the criteria? Can’t it be changed? Why not?

    Education and NS are the two things that take up a major part of the first quarter of our lives. So the only thing we can work on are these two items.

    If we really want to solve the declining birthrate, we’ll need to have an environment that allows that to happen naturally and that is to allow couples to marry earlier. Why are we marrying later? Because more than 50% of our population has tertiary education and thus starting work/career later.

  8. Atomic Monkey said

    I still cannot see how it is possible to get ppl to the workforce earlier. Even if it is successful, the return on effort would only pay out nominal results – i.e advantage of less than 3 yrs.

    One solution would be to augment the baby making process by perhaps looking into ways to reduce the cost associated with fertility treatments eg IVF.

    For a country that has a declining birthrate I really cannot see why this area has not been given special attention.

    Instead many prospective couples have to seek treatment in private clinics bc our national health service lags very far behind in this area. Besides being prohibitively expensive there doesnt appear to be any subsidise in this area????

    I once heard one horror story from a fellow brother who signed up for a fertility program in sgh. He was shown into what was presumably a sperm donation room.

    As this chap was happily playing with himself, he notice from the corner of eye two figures looking at him – they were two govt issued photos of the president and his wife – they were smiling supremely at him.

    This only goes to show there is room for improvement in this area.

  9. Assuming that we are successful and able to let people start working earlier by 3 years, imagine the economic contribution of that 3 years to the country! :) If we are successful, we’ll likely reduce the mean age of first marriage for grooms and brides to 27.5 and 24.3 respectively. If couples want more children, the chance will increase dramatically since it is more plausible for a couple to have 3 or 4 children within the 11 years (before the women reaches 35, when the fertility dramatically decreases). Also,

    from a strictly biological perspective, the 20s is the best decade for conceiving and carrying a baby: Experts say the average woman’s fertility peaks when she’s 24

    - source: Babycenter.

    It is also stated here that “…fertility as well as the effectiveness of ACP (Assisted Conception Procedures) decline with age, couples are encouraged to have their children early.”

    Therefore, regardless for IVF (a type of ACP) or having more children, it is only advantageous that couples are encouraged to marry earlier and thus starting a family earlier than the current trend. As I don’t have data on the number of couples seeking ACP, I won’t be able to comment on the impact in birthrates. If there are more couples seeking ACP, it is also possible that it was caused by later age of marrying. As ACP is likely to be tedious, it is quite unlikely that a couple will go through ACP to have more than one child.

    That said, however, I also agree with your suggestion that more financial subsidies can be provided to couples seeking ACP other than just raising the CPF withdrawal limits (which had been implemented). We need all the help we can get.

    The root cause of declining birthrate is couples marrying and thus starting family later. I believe any solution to effectively increase birthrates, will need to start addressing the root cause.

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