MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Singapore’s Fertility Rate Declines to Historic Low in 2023

In a historic downturn, Singapore’s fertility rate plummeted to 0.97 in 2023, marking the Republic’s first time falling below the 1.0 threshold. 

This significant sets a new low in the nation’s demographic records. It also echoes a global trend of decreasing fertility rates among developed countries. With South Korea and Japan grappling with similar challenges, this phenomenon highlights a broader shift in societal values and the economic factors influencing family planning. 

Understanding Total Fertility Rate

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is a critical demographic indicator, quantifying the average number of children a woman is expected to have over her lifetime.

The importance of the TFR extends beyond mere population counts. The TFR is integral to forecasting future demographic structures, economic growth potential, and the sustainability of social support systems. A TFR of 2.1 is generally considered the replacement level needed to maintain a stable population, absent of migration influences. 

Falling well below this benchmark, Singapore’s current TFR signals potential challenges ahead. This includes workforce shrinkage and increased pressure on healthcare and retirement systems, necessitating a reevaluation of policies and support frameworks.

Global Comparisons and Causes

In exploring the broader context of Singapore’s declining fertility rate, it’s crucial to consider the global landscape, especially the situations in South Korea and Japan, which provide valuable comparative insights. 

South Korea’s TFR plummeted to 0.72 in 2023, marking an eight-year streak of record lows. This decline highlights the country’s ongoing struggle with one of the lowest fertility rates among OECD countries​​. Japan, too, faces significant fertility challenges, with its TFR falling to a record-tying low of 1.26 in 2022, indicating a prolonged trend of declining birth rates. The number of newborns in Japan also reached a historic low, falling below 800,000 for the first time since records began​​.

The reasons behind these declines are complex and multifaceted, encompassing economic, social, and cultural dimensions. High living costs, changing societal values, career aspirations, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have all played roles. Both South Korea and Japan have implemented various measures to address these issues. Yet, the persistently low fertility rates suggest that such interventions have had limited success. For instance, despite Japan’s efforts to enhance child-rearing support, the effectiveness of these measures in significantly reversing the falling birthrate remains in question​​.

Government and Societal Responses

In response to the declining fertility rates, Singapore has implemented a series of measures aimed at encouraging higher birth rates. These initiatives reflect a comprehensive approach, targeting economic, social, and cultural barriers that couples face in starting and expanding families.

Economic Support and Incentives

The Singapore government has introduced a range of financial incentives and support schemes designed to reduce the economic burden of raising children. This includes cash gifts, childcare subsidies, and parental leave schemes. Such financial assistance is critical in a city-state known for its high cost of living, where potential parents might be deterred by the anticipated expenses of child-rearing.

Social and Cultural Shifts

Additionally, initiatives have been undertaken to tackle the social and cultural factors impacting fertility rates. Campaigns aimed at celebrating family life, parenthood, and the delights of raising children strive to modify societal attitudes and norms that might favour smaller families or postponing parenthood. These efforts are crucial in transforming the wider societal milieu that influences personal choices regarding family size and timing.

Moreover, these endeavours serve as a foundation for encouraging a shift in public perception. These campaigns work towards normalising the idea of embracing parenthood earlier. This strategic approach is instrumental in gradually altering deep-seated cultural preferences and expectations around family planning.

In conjunction, such campaigns are complemented by educational efforts that aim to dispel myths and provide factual information about the challenges and rewards of parenting. This educational component ensures that individuals can make informed decisions based on a realistic understanding of what parenthood entails.

Ultimately, these concerted efforts signify a proactive attempt to reshape societal values and norms. By fostering a culture that views family and parenthood in a positive light, there is a hopeful anticipation that these initiatives will gradually lead to a more family-oriented society, where the decision to expand a family is met with support and enthusiasm from the wider community.

Challenges Ahead

Despite these efforts, Singapore continues to grapple with significant hurdles in counteracting the downward trend in fertility rates. The experiences gleaned from other nations underscore the complexity of the matter. Economic incentives and support schemes, although pivotal, may not suffice on their own to markedly influence fertility rates. Tackling the deeper societal and cultural underpinnings necessitates a long-term, multifaceted strategy that evolves in tandem with shifting attitudes towards marriage, parenthood, and work-life balance.

Moreover, as Singapore embarks on this challenging journey, it becomes evident that reversing the fertility trend demands not merely economic support but also broader societal transformations. Consequently, it will be imperative for Singapore to continually adapt and refine its strategies, aiming to cultivate a more family-friendly environment that is conducive to achieving sustainable fertility rates. This approach requires patience, innovation, and a commitment to addressing the multifaceted aspects of this pressing issue.

References

  1. Tan, T. (2024, February 28). Singapore’s total fertility rate hits record low in 2023, falls below 1 for first time. The Straits Times. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/politics/singapore-s-total-fertility-rate-hits-record-low-in-2023-falls-below-1-for-first-time
  2. Lee, & Kim. (n.d.). In South Korea, world’s lowest fertility rate plunges again in 2023. REUTERS. Retrieved February 29, 2024, from https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/south-koreas-fertility-rate-dropped-fresh-record-low-2023-2024-02-28/
  3. Otake, T. (2023, June 2). Japan’s fertility rate matches record low as it drops for seventh consecutive year. The Japan Times. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/06/02/national/2022-birthrate-record-low/

Share via

Also worth reading

People also read: