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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Top Response

Andrew Chan, Founder and CEO, ACI HR Solutions

The birth figures are not surprising at all – the contraction has been taking place for a number of years and will undoubtedly continue, putting more pressure on current manpower issues. Japan has faced this problem for over 20 years and even China is not immune, with both countries facing a...

Responses

Tan Suee Chieh, President-elect, Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
29 Jul 2019 - 11:56

If we do not address this crisis, Singapore will wither away with time.

The answer to the issues facing mankind is not to have more children but to sustain our resources wisely. As a country of immigrants, we should welcome immigrants – Asians, Europeans, South Americans and Africans, and not let any single race dominate. It is important to build a truly strong multi-cultural Singapore core and identity. In the emerging digital paradigm, we require diversity of thinking, talent and skills sets to thrive. We are too small to be insular. I believe Singaporeans can be rallied to support this, if more thought is put into this.

American greatness stemmed from a historical DNA that welcomed immigrants throughout the world. Hence, it has been able to renew itself, and be a leader in business, arts and the sciences. We can create an equally compelling island of dynamism too in the next 50-100 years. I see this crisis as an opportunity. I believe we can change our mindset and reinvent ourselves in order to thrive as an exceptional country.

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Rathakrishnan Govind, CEO, London School of Business and Finance
29 Jul 2019 - 11:56

The decline in births is a serious concern for any government. However, with the increasing world population, the decline is somewhat welcoming on a social note! Governments today are in fact very aware of this problem, with the trend of birth decline evident in many developed nations. Whilst technology can replace humans in some ways, in certain job roles it is not always feasible or productive to do so. The labour crunch is especially acute in the serrvice industries, and immigration is a viable option that must be carefully studied and implemented. Controlled immigration can boost the economy and local businesses. International students are especially a valuable manpower source for the service sectors while they are at school and can be allowed to work limited hours. It is time to review blanket policies and introduce bespoke customised solutions for a better future for businesses.

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Andrew Chan, Founder and CEO, ACI HR Solutions
29 Jul 2019 - 11:55

The birth figures are not surprising at all – the contraction has been taking place for a number of years and will undoubtedly continue, putting more pressure on current manpower issues. Japan has faced this problem for over 20 years and even China is not immune, with both countries facing a shrinking workforce in recent years. From an employment perspective, whilst immigration is one answer, I believe there needs to be a balanced solution including workplace restructuring through automation. On a macro level, I don’t actually believe there will be a reversal to the trend and a low birth rate is here to stay, much like in Japan.

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Simon Baptist, Global Chief Economist and MD, The Economist Intelligence Unit, Asia
29 Jul 2019 - 11:55

A declining birth rate is something that almost every rich country is dealing with. It is inevitable, policy will need to adapt, and need not be a disaster. Immigration is a good solution to make this transition smooth, as we wait to see how far automation will reduce the labour-intensity of different industries. Singapore has some good family-friendly policies, but these could be extended to be consistent with the types of home arrangements that many of them want, which are not always the traditional formats. Paternity leave should be made longer and not contingent upon being married, and all mothers should be able to transfer their maternity leave entitlement to their partner if they wish, so that men are more able to be primary caregivers if the mother wants to keep working. Housing policy could also be adjusted so as to not discriminate against groups such as single parents, unmarried couples, and LGBT couples. In other countries, policies that enable people to combine the types of families and living arrangements they want with career have been more effective than tax incentives in encouraging births. That matters not just for the economy but also for giving more people a happy family life. It would also be great to see more working mothers in senior positions in Singapore business and government to act as role models and show that working parents can still succeed on merit.

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Jayaprakash Jagateesan, Chief Executive Officer, RHT Holdings Pte Ltd
29 Jul 2019 - 11:55

I recently did my part and welcomed my second child earlier this year. Business leaders can also do their part by offering pro-family initiatives and creating a supportive workplace culture to sway working parents to have more children.
RHT’s Flexible Work Arrangement gives parents the confidence to balance their work and personal commitments by working from home for an extended period. We also need to dispel the implicit expectations to prioritise work which often stops parents from making full use of the available parental and childcare leave entitlements.

While declining birth rates may impact our nation-building process, immigration policies alone cannot address all aspects of our demographic challenges.

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Jane Prior Partner Rapzo Capital
29 Jul 2019 - 11:55

Like the slow train wreck, declining birth rates must be a huge concern to all of us. Thankfully we have seen more incentives to support couples wanting to start a family but these are obviously being measured within the same-old context of what constitutes job and lifetime security but against the enormity of an economically gloomy and fast-heating world.

Resolution, I feel, is linked to earlier discussions around a shift in workplace attitudes and culture so that any would-be parents (Singaporeans or new arrivals) can take the plunge with more confidence that the future will enable integration of family and professional commitments without fear of prejudice. Ideas once considered absurd such as two people sharing one job and part-time positions may need to become commonplace and alongside that, more focus on education for leisure so that work-life balance becomes integral to self-actualisation.

Parenting is more than meeting a financial burden or successfully juggling a busy schedule – it is a journey of self-re-discovery as we view the fragile wonders of our world anew through the eyes of our children. Therein lies possibly our only salvation.

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John Bittleston, Founder and Chair, Terrific Mentors International Pte Ltd
29 Jul 2019 - 11:54

Declining births pose a challenge that is well within Singapore’s ability to meet. We have established ourselves as a place where High Talent aspires to spend between five and ten years both contributing and learning. Thus Singapore is rapidly building a worldwide alumnus of people who are keen to see Singapore flourish and are willing to help when asked. We should consider offering talented people with whom we want to keep in close touch Conditional Passports allowing them working stays for a certain amount of time each decade, renewable if both parties wish. This way great people all around the world will feel being part of Singapore.

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Victor Mills, Chief Executive, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce
29 Jul 2019 - 11:54

Singapore’s declining birth and total fertility rates have been concerns for decades. How do we sustain our vibrant economy? The answer has to lie, in part, in targeted immigration designed to attract people with the capabilities, expertise, investment, knowledge and skills Singapore and businesses need to complement our own local talent. The approach should be sectoral and focused on quality, not quantity. We will need to update our employment pass processes and make them fit for purpose. Singaporeans and residents need to continue to welcome immigrants so that they assimilate easily, contribute quickly and integrate fully into our global city.

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