The next time someone laments to me that Singapore’s fertility rate is low and falling and that at 1.9 or 1.5 per couple, we are not reproducing ourselves, I shall give them this lecture:
- The replacement rate of 2.1 is out of date.
- Useful at a time when people were retiring at 50 or 55 and the kids started work almost straight out of school or even younger.
- Useful when people were exiting this world in droves from their 60s and life expectancy wasn’t above 70.
- Today, people retire later. 62 is the present norm and soon, it will be 65. Even then, informal or lower paid employment can extend to 75 and sometimes beyond.
- Today, people are better educated, have more savings, can support themselves longer and life expectancy is 85 or thereabouts and rising.
- Given this scenario of people living longer, some 25 years longer than was the case when Singapore had too many births, isn’t it just great that the stop-at-2 campaign worked so well?
- Otherwise, we would have more babies coming out of the pipeline even as those who have long arrived are taking their time to check out!
- Then we would be in an over-population crunch: with the young and old competing for work, space and funds.
- Instead, today, one or two children families have the luxury of keeping their kids at school longer, as both papa and mama work longer and in higher paying jobs, because of their better qualifications.
- And because couples have fewer kids, they will have more resources left over from their working life to finance their old age arising from a longer life span.
So please don’t lament Singapore’s low birth rate but celebrate it as the new norm in the Brave New World in which our demographics are rapidly taking on a fresh and positive shape.