Tuesday, October 9, 2012


S'pore hopes to raise TFR to at least 1.4

S'pore hopes to raise TFR to at least 1.4
By S Ramesh | Posted: 09 October 2012 2150 hrs

SINGAPORE: Acting Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said there are positive signs that Singapore will be able to achieve its target of building as strong a Singaporean core as possible, by encouraging its people to get married and have more children earlier.

Mr Teo, who is also Minister-in-Charge of population policies, said surveys show that 85 per cent of singles want to get married, while eight in 10 married couples want to have two to three children.

He said these reflect the desire among the vast majority to get married and start families.

Addressing about 200 participants at a townhall dialogue on "Our Population, Our Future" on Tuesday, Mr Teo said this is very encouraging.

Mr Teo also hopes that Singapore's Total Fertility Rate (TFR) can increase from the current 1.2 to at least 1.4 or 1.5.

He said it would be good if the TFR is higher than 1.5 but added that it'll take time to change this.

He said there have been suggestions for the government to increase financial support for parents, improve the availability and quality of childcare facilities and promote work-life balance and flexi-work arrangements.

Mr Teo said the government is studying these proposals, including ideas to refine existing marriage and parenthood initiatives.

But he stressed that what's more important is a whole-of-society effort to enhance a family-friendly culture.

"Getting married and having children must be something that couples want and look forward to, and feel is important to make their lives complete. We will strive to create a supportive and conducive environment for raising children, and we hope that couples will make the decision to start a family, even if circumstances do not fit their expectations completely or perfectly," said Mr Teo.

He pointed out that Singapore will need to add about 20,000 new Singaporeans each year, to keep the citizen population stable.

A good number of these new Singaporeans are spouses of citizens.

Last year, 39 per cent of marriages, or about 9,000, were between a Singaporean and a non-Singaporean.

So with 20,000 new citizens per year, Mr Teo said the country is "filling" in the shortfall to replace itself and to have a sustainable and stable population of Singaporeans.

Turning to long-term population projections, Mr Teo said how many people Singapore can have will depend on factors such as plans for its urban environment.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), in its most recent mid-term concept plan review in 2006, had assessed that Singapore has sufficient land to support a population of 6.5 million.

Mr Teo stressed that this was a planning parameter - not a population target.

He said what Singapore's population would be will depend on how many more babies the country has, whether it continues to create good jobs and is able to attract new immigrants, as well as the decisions on the number of foreign workers needed to support economic and social needs.

"But because major infrastructure projects take time, we must plan well ahead, and build in a buffer for contingencies. This is a prudent thing to do so that we can implement the plans if needed with minimal lag time, and continue to enjoy a well-planned and good living environment," said Mr Teo.

The National Population and Talent Division has received close to 2,000 pieces of feedback directly and met over 1,200 individuals and representatives of various groupings and organisations.

The government is preparing a White Paper on the population issue and plans to finalise it by the end of the year.

- CNA/ck


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