Singapore Population Policies

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This paper follows the transition of population and fertility policies in Singapore from its independence in 1965 until present. In line with the population situation in the country, the government has spared no effort in trying to influence the population size and growth pattern. These policies are varied in nature and have differing level of effectiveness.

In this paper, we will be looking into the socioeconomic situations at the given periods of time and understand in context the nature of the policies chosen by the government. 5 Key Words 1. Population Policies 2. Baby Bonus 3. Fertility 4. Population Growth 5. TFR Introduction Population growth is an issue facing many countries around the world today. As the world’s population increases, there is a myriad of different challenges faced by governments such as socio-economic, health, education, housing and transport factors.

In Asia where the total population size is on a rise, the growth distribution is very much uneven. Developing countries such as China, India and Vietnam are seeing higher fertility rates, but at the same time higher infant mortality and shorter life expectancy. On the other hand, major cities and developed countries such as Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are faced with problems of aging population and fertility rates lower than replacement rate level. As a small nation with almost no natural resources, Singapore has turned to human capital as our main resource to ensure the growth and prosperity of the nation.

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Since its independence in 1965, the Singapore government has played a very active role in implementing various population policies in attempt to control the population size. These policies – some of which are controversial in nature – have had varied effects on the population growth patterns and trends in this period. The policies can be broadly categorized into three phases: the anti-natalist phase in the 1960s and 1970s, the brief eugenics – or selectively natalist – phase in the mid-1980s and 2 the pro-natalist phase which spanned from the late 1980s till today.

These policies differ in their objectives, applications and rationale in accordance with the context of the time of implementation. This paper aims to describe and analyze the changing nature of these policies and their overall effectiveness in bringing about the desired population outcome. Background of Singapore’s Population Before delving deeper into the population policies, it would be useful to first understand the nature of the population in Singapore. Founded in 1819 by the British, Singapore had its humble beginnings as a fishing village at the southern tip of the Malay Archipelago.

When Sir Stamford Raffles first set foot in Singapore, there was an estimated population of about 150 natives (Wong & Yeoh, 2003). Singapore quickly grew to become an important trading hub in the East for the British. When its doors first opened, immigrants mainly from South China, India and Malaya – as well as other parts of South East Asia – entered Singapore for work opportunities. Many of them subsequently settled in Singapore and brought their families over. To date, these three races make up the majority populations. As of 2011, Chinese make up 74% of the total population, Malays 13%, Indians 9. % and the remaining 3. 8% classified as “others”. As the immigration rate grew, so too did the overall population size. The increasing trend continued up till the World War II which saw Singapore fall under the Japanese occupation. The post-war population boom followed after. As seen from Figure 1. 0, Singapore saw a close to doubling in population size in each of the stated periods from 1947-1970. Specifically, there was a 84. 7% increase from 1947-1957 and 90. 8% increase from 19571970. Singapore remained a British colony until 1959, after which came a brief period of merger with the Malaysian Federation.

However when that failed, Singapore attained her independence in 1965, coming under the governance of the People’s Action Party (PAP) which has formed the government till today. From the time of independence, the PAP has implemented a series of policies in attempt to influence the population size and growth. 3 Figure 1. 0: Population Changes in Singapore, 1947-2000 Compiled from: del Tufo, 1949; Arumainathan, 1970; Singapore Department of Statistics, various issues. (Del Tufo, 1949) Anti-Natalist Phase (1966-1982) It can be seen from Figure 1. 0 that the population growth rate slowed significantly in the post-independence years.

The growth rate from 1970-1980 was at only 16. 4%. This was largely due to the introduction of the government’s anti-natalist policies. The majority of people in Singapore came from China, India and Malaysia, where having large families was very much a tradition. In 1957, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) reached its peak of above 6 and at the time of independence, the TFR was still relatively high at approximately 4. 5 (See Figure 2. 0). Subsequently it decreased below the replacement level of 2 where it has stayed till today. Figure 2. 0: Total Fertility Rate 1957-2001 (Yap, 2001) 4

The post-independence period of the saw the government embarking on an “ambitious programme” of urban renewal, socioeconomic planning and extensive industrialization (Kuo & Wong, 1979). Some of the socio-economic challenges Singapore faced include unemployment, education and housing shortage. To ease these problems, the government opened the doors to foreign investments and focused on industrialization to improve the economy and living standards. However, there remained concerns that an unstably large population would negate the economic achievements. Hence in 1966, the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board (SFPPB) was instituted.

Its role was to reduce Singapore’s birth rate and net reproduction rate. Among of the first of its initiatives was the “Stop at Two” policy. Under this policy, incentives were given to smaller families and disincentives to larger families. These came in the form of education costs and enrolment preferences, delivery costs and priority for public housing. The SFPPB utilized mass media to pressure and educate the couples about the need for family planning. Campaigns were held to explain to couples the benefits of having a smaller family and legislatives were relaxed to encourage the use of contraceptives and abortion (Palen, 1986).

Voluntary sterilization was also legalized – and with it came a cache of benefits for sterilized parents, including priority in primary school registration and the reimbursement of delivery fees (Wong & Yeoh, 2003). Figure 3. 0 shows some samples of the types of posters used in this period. There was then a general preference for larger families and for sons. It was not uncommon to see parents trying repeatedly until they bore a son, in part leading to the higher fertility. Furthermore, efforts were made to discourage early marriages so as to lower the chances of couples having larger families. 5 Figure 3. : Campaign Posters (a) Urging couples take their time to say “yes” to marriage and having first and second child; (b) Encouraging son-preferring parents to stop at two children regardless of gender. The “Stop at Two” policy succeeded in reducing the overall fertility rate of Singaporeans. By the mid-1970s, the replacement level was reached. This was in part due to the effectiveness of the government efforts but was also largely affected by socioeconomic factors. Such include the higher cost of living, greater focus on career and a larger female’s labor force. In particular the latter became the root of a new concern.

There was a larger group of graduate females choosing to marry later or not at all, thereby reducing the number of babies born to the higher-educated (Wong & Yeoh, 2003). In the mid-1980s, there was a shift in the focus of the population policies, hence entering the Eugenics Phase. 6 Eugenics Phase (1983-1986) The main aim of these new set of policies was to encourage the educated women to marry earlier and to have more children. It was introduced by then Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew in his 1983 National Day Rally speech, “we must amend our policies, and try to reshape our emographic configuration so that our better-educated women will have more children to be adequately represented in the next generation… In some way or other, we must ensure that the next generation will not be too depleted of the talented. ” The first changes began in 1984 which saw an introduction of new policies and campaigns to amend the previous antinatalist ones. These policies were mainly targeted at the better educated segment of the population, to raise their overall fertility rate.

Graduate Mother’s Scheme – priority for primary school registration was given to children of mothers who possessed degrees from acceptable universities or who had other professional qualifications. This scheme was implemented in 1985 and was abandoned after just one year due to its unpopularity among graduates and non-graduates alike. The majority of children registering for primary schools in 1985 got into the school of choice and only 157 benefitted. Increased Enhanced Child Relief – the enhanced child relief scheme was originally introduced earlier to encourage highly qualified women to continue working (Yap, 2001).

This was targeted at highly educated women, for up to their third child. They would receive up to $10,000 total relief per child. The increase was from 5% of the woman’s annual income for the first three births, to 10% for the second child and 15% for the third. However this was not believed to be very effective in encouraging in persuading women to have more children due to the huge demands of juggling work and family responsibilities. Sterilization Cash Incentive – this aimed to discourage the lowly educated, low-income from having more children by providing incentives for sterilization.

Couples with a combined income of less than S$1500 were eligible for this incentive. A $10,000 cash grant was granted to women who underwent sterilization before age 30. The money was paid to the mother’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) 1 account which could be used to pay for public housing or withdrawn at age of 55. Government Hospital Accouchement Fees – as of 1 March 1985, the delivery ward fees were raised for third and higher order deliveries. This was aimed at discouraging lowerincome families from having more children by raising delivery cost.

Instituted on 1 July 1955, it is a compulsory comprehensive savings scheme for working Singaporeans and  Permanent Residents, used to pay for housing, healthcare and retirement. 1 7 Graduate Marriage Matchmaking – the Social Development Unit (SDU) was set up in 1984 to create opportunities for single males and females who were graduates to meet each other and hopefully find a life partner (Yap, 2001). This was done through outings, forums, computer matchmaking, etc. Presently, some orientation camps in Universities receiving sponsorship from SDU as one of their ways of facilitating undergraduates to meet each other.

These policies had less effectiveness than the anti-natalist policies of the past. The TFR remained below the replacement rate of 2. Hence arose new concerns of an aging population, labour shortage and smaller workforce. Projections in the late 1980s were that the aging population would reach 25% by 2025 (Wong & Yeoh, 2003). The eugenics programme did little to encourage graduate females from having more children and many were still choosing to remain single. These led to further changes in population policies to the pro-natalist which are still present to date.

Pro-Natalist Phase (1987-present) This new direction in policy which took effect in March 1987, termed the New Population Policy (NPP) by Wong and Yeoh (2003), was accompanied by a slew of advertising campaigns emphasizing the importance of starting a family and having multiple children to a successful and well-rounded life (Chua, 2009). Campaign posters such as those seen in Figure 4. 1 and Figure 4. 2 were used to convey the primary message “Have Three or More Children If You Can Afford It”. The policies were aimed at two main groups of Singaporeans, the married couples and unmarried singles.

They were characterized by incentives given to larger families to aid them with the childbirth and child-raising. 8 Figure 4. 1: ‘Family Togetherness is the Key to Happiness’ 1986, Ministry of Communications and Information Taken from Fertility and Family – Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore (Wong & Yeoh, 2003) Figure 4. 2: ‘Abortion is not a method of family planning’, 1986, Ministry of Health. Training and Health Education Department Taken from Fertility and Family – Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore (Wong & Yeoh, 2003) 9

Medisave2 – with effect 1 March 1987, funds from this medical savings account can be used to cover the delivery and hospital charges for the third child and beyond. Public Housing – efforts were made to enable couples with larger families as well as young couples to apply for public housing. Rules were relaxes to allow couples with a third child born on or after 1 January 1987 to sell their 3-room or larger apartment to purchase bigger ones (Yap, 2001). In 1994, in response to complaints about rising housing costs, young couples who were buying re-sale public housing for the first time could receive grants to help ease their financial burden.

Furthermore, in efforts to promote “intimacy at a distance”, the quantum was increased if the young couples lived near either of their parents (Yap, 2001). Young couples whose new houses were not yet ready were also able to rent apartments, so as to prevent them from delaying their marriage for housing reasons. Sterilization and Abortion – in a change from earlier policies, the government tried to discourage Singaporeans from undergoing sterilization and/or abortion. With effect 1 April 1987, the previously granted one week sterilization leave granted to civil servants was removed for citizens with at least 1 O’Level3 pass.

From 1 October 1987, women with less than three children deciding to undergo abortion had to undergo counselling. The same applied to men and women with less than three children who were looking to undergo sterilization. The policies of the late-1980s had little effect in encouraging Singaporeans to increase their fertility rate. In fact the TFR continued to dip, with an exception in 1988 when the number of births increased due to the Chinese preference for their children to be born in the Chinese zodiac year of the dragon. Throughout the 1990s, the TFR declined, reaching 1. 60 in 2000 (Singstat, 2011).

Hence in 2001 more extensive measures were introduced to help reduce the child raising financial burden on couples. Children Development Co-Savings Scheme (Baby Bonus Scheme) – probably the most commonly known scheme; it is a two tier system giving families with two and above number of children monetary benefits. It was first implemented on 1 April 2001 and has since been revised twice in 2004 and 2008. Introduced in April 1984, it is a medical savings account for Singaporeans. Singaporean employees contribute  6? 9% of their monthly income to this account which can be used to cover hospital fees for themselves and  their immediate family.  General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level examination is taken by all secondary school students in  Singapore. It is the qualification exam for junior colleges or polytechnics application. 2 10 For babies born on or after 1 April 2001, $500 cash grant was awarded to the second child and $1000 to the third child annually for the first 6 years. Furthermore, the government would match dollar for dollar the amount the child’s parents put into a Child Development Account (CDA), subject to a maximum of $1000 per annum for the second child and $2000 for the third child.

The money in the CDA could be used to pay for fees at approved institutions registered with the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports (MCYS), under the Baby Bonus scheme. These include child care centres, kindergartens and special care institutions registered with the Ministry of Education (MOE), healthcare institutions licensed under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics (PHMC) Act as well as early intervention programs registered under the National Council of Social Services. The money in each account could be used for all the couples’ children, not just the child to whom the account applies to.

In addition, mothers were also granted 8 weeks maternity leave for the third child. Previously, companies were only required to offer the leave for the first and second child. Under the new scheme, the government would reimburse the company for up to $20,000 to cover the maternity leave costs. Self-employed workers could also claim this reimbursement based on the income received 180 days prior to the start of maternity leave. On 1 August 2004, slight enhancements were made to the Baby Bonus scheme. Such include cash gifts for children of the first and fourth birth order (Chua, 2009).

The first child however did not receive the benefits under the co-savings scheme. The cash gifts were also distributed sooner in four equal installments at three weeks after joining the scheme and at the child’s 6, 12 and 18th month. Also in the 2004 enhancement, a committee was also set up to monitor families under the scheme and to ensure that no family was worse off under the new policies. These include the lowering of domestic worker levies, implementation of a five-day work week to encourage family time, and benefits for grandparents who helped in the raising of the young children.

The last made enhancements were on 17 August 2008. This saw an increase in the cash gift amount as well as government contribution to the CDA. The first and second child had an increased cash gift total of $4000 while the third and fourth had $6000. The fifth child was also eligible for up to $18000 CDA matching. Work Life Unit – a final implementation under the pro-natalist policies is the setting up of the work life unit under the MCYS aiming to promote a family-friendly culture in the office. These include the granting of marriage and paternity leave and flexi-work practices.

Half of the 20% down-payment made for public housing could also be deferred to encourage young couples to marry early. A series of public education programs were also in place to promote marriage 11 life and procreation. The Ministry of Education also funded the building of more hostels in universities in hopes that young and single undergraduates could meet each other early and ultimately become life partners. Conclusion The active role which the government has taken in managing the population of Singapore is essential given that human capital is our most important resource.

As Singapore continues to prosper, the challenges will only become more pronounced. As it stands, the TFR is on a continuous decrease, reaching its record lowest of 1. 15 in 2010. Despite the numerous efforts by the government to offer monetary relief and assistance, the fact remains that most Singaporeans are not willing to have big families due to the rising costs of living, work commitments, emphasis on career development and preference to provide specialized parental attention to smaller number of children, etc.

While the financial aid may be useful in the early years of the child, no amount of aid can fully help compensate the time, effort and costs of raising a child. In order to sustain a population growth in order to maintain a large enough workforce to steer the economy, the government has had to turn to their foreign worker policy, opening the doors to more and more migrant workers. While this can help fill the short term need for employment, it is not a feasible long term solution as increased number of foreigners may dilute the Singaporean culture and cause us to lose some of the national identity.

The population challenges look likely to persist in the future. To deal with it adequately requires more than simply good government policies. It also requires a mindset change among Singaporeans to be willing to put family as a top priority, something which is much more difficult to deal with. 12 References Chua, C. (2009). The Baby Bonus: A Brief Empirical Study. Del Tufo, M. (1949). Malaya, Comprising the Federation of Malaya and the Colony of Singapore: A Report on the 1947 Census of Population. London: Crown Agents for the Colonies. Kuo, C. E. , & Wong, A. K. (1979). Some Observations on the Study of Family Change in Singapore.

In C. E. Kuo, & A. K. Wong, The Contemporary Family in Singapore (p. 9). Singapore: Singapore University Press . Palen, J. J. (1986). Fertility and Eugenics: Singapore’s Population Policies (Vols. Vol. 5, No. 1). Springer in cooperation with the Southern Demographics Association. Wong , T. , & Yeoh, B. S. (2003). Fertility and the Family: An Overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore. Asian Metacentre Research Paper Series. Yap, M. (2001). Fertility and Population Policy: the Singapore Experience. Jornal of Population and Social Security (Population), Supplement to Volume 2, 652. 13