POSTED 29 Jul 2019 - 11:53

In your view, how much of a concern is the decline in births for Singapore?

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To what extent should the country turn to immigration policy in response to the trend?
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Responses

Vikas Nahata, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, Validus Capital
29 Jul 2019 - 11:59

The declining birth rate and ageing population are a concern for the future health of Singapore as a vibrant economy and nation. While the government has come up with multiple initiatives, we are still seeing a dip in the birth rate. The key questions to be asked and answered should be – Why are young couples not having children? Is the marriage rate going up? Is this reflecting a trend in the population to have kids at a later stage of their lives? I feel the joys of parenthood should be publicised through multiple media sources as young adults should not feel afraid to have children, and should also know that it’s something that’s well supported by the government. Immigration policy should be considered to bring positive, vibrant families into the ecosystem, but they must fit with the Singapore culture and nation-building spirit.

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Dileep Nair, Independent Director, Thakral Corporation Limited
29 Jul 2019 - 11:58

Demography for Singapore is an existential challenge....so long as we wish to remain a sovereign country. Without immigration, our working-age citizen population would have already started to shrink, given our dangerously low fertility rate. Coupled with the rapidly aging resident population, this would have a severe impact on our economy and overall well-being of our people. To achieve sustainable growth of about 3 per cent for a vibrant economy, even with a productivity gain of 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent, we would need labour force increase of 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent. This means we must continue to welcome immigrants, albeit in a regulated way so that it does not threaten our social well-being, cohesion and national identity. We had a backlash against immigration between 2005 and 2010 when infrastructure in terms of transport, housing, medical care and education, was insufficient to cope with the influx. This must be avoided. Similarly, genuine attempts must be made for immigrants to integrate with, rather than be isolated from, the Singapore milieu. We must be seen as an attractive destination in this worldwide competition for the talented and well-educated. After all, inclusiveness is in our DNA since for most of us, our parents or grandparents were themselves immigrants.

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Chia Ngiang Hong, President, Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (REDAS)
29 Jul 2019 - 11:58

One alarming aspect of the declining birth rate is the indifference to warnings about the new demographic reality of a shrinking workforce. A seemingly easy way out is to tweak the current tight immigration policy. However, this is a stopgap measure that has high socio-political costs. Employers should address immediate manpower concerns by leveraging on technology, innovation and revolution in infotech, etc. This would also go hand in glove with the SkillsFuture programme to empower the workforce.
More importantly, we should not give up on looking for a long-term solution that addresses the root of our perennial demographic problem. Perhaps the answer lies not just in immigration or in relying on monetary incentives, but rather in providing pragmatic solutions that directly address the very real and everyday concerns of working mums and parents so that more people are more willing to assume parenthood early.

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Tony Lombardo, Chief Executive Officer of Asia, Lendlease
29 Jul 2019 - 11:58

Raising a child requires significant commitment and as an employer, we believe that a caring culture that enables our employees to better manage both work and life demands is important. We offer flexible work hours, remote working, part-time employment and job sharing. We also strive to achieve gender equity with our best-practice parental care leave that has provisions for the primary carer – whether the father, mother or partner – for both newborns as well as adopted newborns. Our inclusion strategy recognises that everyone has different priorities at different phases of their lives and providing strong support through these stages enables us to retain a strong talent pool.

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Violet Lim, CEO & Co-Founder, Lunch Actually Group
29 Jul 2019 - 11:58

As a professional matchmaker and a mother of two, I am extremely concerned about the decline in births in Singapore.

Singles are getting married later and this affects their fertility. The government has given a slew of goodies to encourage dating, marriage and parenthood. It is well appreciated but often seen as not enough. In Japan, there was a slight reversal of the decline in birth trend. The reason was because corporates realised that it was getting more difficult to hire, and that a decline in births would actually come back to haunt them later. Hence, corporates are now embarking on more work-life balance policies for their employees.

We need to do the same in Singapore. As bosses, managers or business owners – how can we have in place policies, formal or informal, to help singles to have time to go on dates? Many singles have shared with me that they are the ones expected to work overtime because their married colleagues have to rush off to pick up their children from childcare,etc. How can we help married employees leave work on time so that they have time for romance? In addition to what the government has provided in terms of childcare leave, what else can we offer our employees so that they are better able to juggle between family and work, say, through flexi-work arrangements?

Like the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a kid. Other than government policies, as bosses, we can do our part to help reverse the declining birth trend.

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Chris J Reed, Global CEO and Founder, Black Marketing
29 Jul 2019 - 11:57

Singapore can’t have limited immigration when the evidence is that Singaporeans do not want babies. The facts don't lie; bribes, coercion and forcing people to get married for HDB flats do not make them want to have babies, and penalising single mothers is also not an encouragement to have babies. Singapore has to start welcoming immigrants, allowing single people to have HDB flats before the age of 35 and not stigmatising single mothers. As a new Singaporean citizen I am delighted to bring up my children here and encourage them to give back to the country that they have lived in all their lives; others should get this chance too.

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Roshni Mahtani, CEO and Founder, theAsianparent
29 Jul 2019 - 11:57

The issue of declining birth rates is alarming — Singapore is well below the total fertility rate of 2.1, the number needed to replace our current population. Plummeting birth rates have a drastic impact on the country that already has an aging population, with fewer people to support the economy, and increased healthcare costs over the years. Immigration is not a long-term fix; there has to be a delicate balance in using it as a response to declining birth rates. In the long term, we need more open communication, public policies, funding, and support mechanisms that help to increase birth rates and support families across the socio-economic scale.

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Wilf Blackburn, CEO, Prudential Singapore
29 Jul 2019 - 11:57

Fewer births and rising life expectancy have created a gap in Singapore’s labour force – the supply of younger workers is unable to fill the void left by the swelling number of workers set to retire. Easing the labour crunch requires companies and individuals to rethink the traditional concept of work and retirement. At Prudential, we have started to plan for the future by lifting the retirement age for our employees. They do not need to stop work as long as they continue to perform. We also encourage internal mobility and continuous skills upgrading among our employees so they can remain relevant in the workforce for a longer period of time. Singapore has the world’s longest lifespan. Businesses can take advantage of the country’s longevity and turn that into an opportunity by investing more in leveraging the strength of the older workforce.

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