POPULATION ISSUES, BIRTH CONTROL AND EFFORTS TO BOOST THE BIRTH RATE IN SINGAPORE

POPULATION OF SINGAPORE

Population: 5,460,302 (July 2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 115. Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.6 percent (male 381,145/female 363,504); 15-24 years: 18.2 percent (male 490,526/female 505,713); 25-54 years: 50.1 percent (male 1,336,298/female 1,401,106); 55-64 years: 9.9 percent (male 269,411/female 269,137); 65 years and over: 8.1 percent (male 200,602/female 242,860) (2013 est.). Median age: total: 33.6 years; male: 33.5 years; female: 33.7 years (2013 est.).[Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Population growth rate: 1.96 percent (2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 55 Birth rate: 7.91 births/1,000 population (2013 est.)m country comparison to the world: 220; Death rate: 3.41 deaths/1,000 population (2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 215; Net migration rate: 15.08 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 5. =

Total fertility rate: 0.79 children born/woman (2013 est.), country comparison to the world: 224. Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female; 0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female;15-24 years: 0.97 male(s)/femalel 25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female; 55-64 years: 1 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female; total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2013 est.). =

Singapore is the world's most densely populated nation and the third densest-populated city in the world, behind Macau and Monaco. Half the size of London or quarter of the size of Rhode Island, Singapore is more densely populated than rival Asian business center Hong Kong, Population density was estimated at 7,792 persons per square kilometer (20,182 people square mile) in 2013. By 2050 that is expected to rise to 6,497 people per square km, leaving it 176 times more crowded than the United States, according to the United Nations. Former National Development Minister, Mah Bow Tan, had assured Singaporeans that the island was big enough for a 6.5-million population.

In the 1990s there were 11,702 people square mile (compared to 4 per square mile in Mongolia, 72 in the United States, and 1,188 in South Korea). People per square kilometer) in the 1990s: 1) Macao (25,882); 2) Monaco (15,789); 3) Hong Kong (5,308); 4) Singapore (4,228); 5) Vatican City (2,500); 6) Bermuda (1,322); 7) Malta (1,076); 8) Bangladesh (824); 9) Bahrain (772); 10) Maldives (762).

Singapore’s population was reported by the government at 4,351,400 in July 2005, an increase of some 333,660 since the 2000 census. Of this total, 3,553,500 were citizens or permanent residents. Foreign estimates for July 2006 put the total population at 4,492,150. In 2005 the annual population growth rate, based on total residents, was 1.9 percent. Singapore had a population of 2,674,362 in July 1989 and the low birth and death rates common to developed economies with high per capita incomes. In 1987 the crude birth rate (births in proportion to the total population) was 17 per 1,000 and the death rate was 5 per 1,000 for an annual increase of 12 per 1,000. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006, 1989]

Population Growth in Singapore and an Aging Population

Average number of children per woman: 0.79 (compared to 1.5 in Germany and 7.0 in Ethiopia).

Singapore closely resembles developed countries in terms of its low birth rates, high life expectancy, and major causes of death--heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Although in the early years of independence the government mounted campaigns to lower the country's high birth rate, it became concerned in the 1980s when the rate dropped below the replacement level. Campaigns and incentives were instituted to encourage those who could afford it to have more than two children. College-educated women were especially encouraged by exhortations and incentives to marry and have children. *

The average number of children per woman dropped from 1.96 in 1988 to 1.26 in 2003 to an all time low of 1.15 in 2010. But it went up slightly last year, to 1.20, in 2011. This is far below the 2.1 needed to sustain the native population, and have been so for more than three decades. The government is worried about pressure on the pension system, stress but on young workers to work for retirees and a lack of men for the military.

Singapore has one of the world’s fastest ageing population. The number of people over 65 has doubled in the past 20 years. In the year 2030 it estimated that Singapore will have almost person over the age of 65 for every two people of working age.

The birth rates of Malays and South Asians is higher than that of the Chinese. They are are also higher among the undeducated than the highly edcuated.

In the late 1990s Singapore added about 65,000 to 75,000 new residents to its population every year. Of these about 45,000 were newborn babies and 20,000 or 30,000 were immigrants who become permanent residents. Today, an average of only 40,000 babies are born a year.

Singapore Fertility Rate Falls to Record Low

In 2006, John M. Glionna wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “With Asia's lowest fertility rate outside Hong Kong, in 2004 Singapore saw only 35,500 births, a number far below the 50,000 needed to replenish the population. It was the 28th straight year that the birthrate fell below the population's "replacement rate," experts say. In a speech this summer, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sounded the alarm, warning that Singapore would have to produce more babies or welcome more migrants to sustain economic growth and living standards. Officials have unveiled a $185-million package to encourage baby-making, including cash perks, child-care subsidies, tax rebates for working mothers and longer maternity leaves. They also introduced programs such as "Romancing Singapore," which encouraged people to meet, fall in love, get married and procreate.” [Source: John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2006]

About 36,000 babies were born to residents in 2011, compared with nearly 50,000 in 1990. AFP reported: “Singapore's fertility rate slumped to a new low in 2010, meaning the city-state must keep bringing in foreign workers to support economic growth as the population ages, a senior cabinet official said. The resident fertility rate - or number of babies born per woman per year - dipped to 1.16 last year, down from the previous record low of 1.22 in 2009, said Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng. The rate is well below the 2.1 babies needed for the population to replenish itself naturally. [Source: Agence France Presse, January 17, 2011]

"The key hurdle to achieving a sustainable population lies in our weak local fertility rate," said Wong, who also oversees a body that coordinates population policies. "For more than 30 years, we have not been having enough babies to replace ourselves," he said. While the government has pledged to put the interests of Singaporeans first, the country needs to continue employing foreign workers, Wong Deputy Prime Minister Kan Seng said. He said the government would continue encouraging couples to produce more children, but admitted that raising the fertility rate would take time. "For the foreseeable future, we will need to tap on immigration to augment our population, to support economic growth and to mitigate the impact of ageing," he said.

Singapore has for years rolled out the welcome mat for foreign workers, whose numbers rose drastically during the economic boom from 2004 to 2007. But after the 2008 global financial crisis, the government took a fresh look at its open-door policy following complaints from citizens that foreigners were increasingly competing for jobs, housing, medical care and even for space on metro trains.

Efforts to Slow Population Growth in Singapore

In the 1960s and 70s, Singapore was worried about overpopulation. In 1965 Singapore boasted a fertility rate of 4.7 and so many women gave birth in 1966 that it entered The Guinness Book of Records. A 72-year-old retiree told The Star in 2013 that she recalled seeing pregnant women “everywhere he went in Singapore” in the late 60s. “As a pre-teen, I would see them in Chinatown, in Queenstown, at marketplaces and so on. “Today, as I bicycle all over the island, it would be rare to see a single one,” he added.

A so-called birthquake raised concern that the economy would be overburdened, and thus the government of Lee Kuan Yew, promoted family planning and sterilisation, and legalised abortion. The "Two is Enough" family-planning program of that time made it undesirable to have extra children. Medical fees for third pregnancies jumped by as much as a third. Families also had difficulty getting the third child into desirable schools. Top priority in top-tier primary schools would be given only to children whose parents had been sterilised before the age of 40. The "Two is Enough" family-planning program successfully halved Singapore's population growth rate to 1.82 in 11 years.

Since the mid-1960s, Singapore's government has attempted to control the country's rate of population growth with a mixture of publicity, exhortation, and material incentives and disincentives. Falling death rates, continued high birth rates, and immigration from peninsular Malaya during the decade from 1947 to 1957 produced an annual growth rate of 4.4 percent, of which 3.4 percent represented natural increase and 1.0 percent immigration. The crude birth rate peaked in 1957 at 42.7 per thousand. Beginning in 1949, family planning services were offered by the private Singapore Family Planning Association, which by 1960 was receiving some government funds and assistance. By 1965 the crude birth rate was 29.5 per 1,000 and the annual rate of natural increase had been reduced to 2.5 percent. Singapore's government saw rapid population growth as a threat to living standards and political stability, as large numbers of children and young people threatened to overwhelm the schools, the medical services, and the ability of the economy to generate employment for them all. In the atmosphere of crisis after the 1965 separation from Malaysia, the government in 1966 established the Family Planning and Population Board, which was responsible for providing clinical services and public education on family planning. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Birth rates fell from 1957 to 1970, but then began to rise as women of the postwar baby boom reached child-bearing years. The government responded with policies intended to further reduce the birth rate. Abortion and voluntary sterilization were legalized in 1970. Between 1969 and 1972, a set of policies known as "population disincentives" were instituted to raise the costs of bearing third, fourth, and subsequent children. Civil servants received no paid maternity leave for third and subsequent children; maternity hospitals charged progressively higher fees for each additional birth; and income tax deductions for all but the first two children were eliminated. Large families received no extra consideration in public housing assignments, and top priority in the competition for enrollment in the most desirable primary schools was given to only children and to children whose parents had been sterilized before the age of forty. Voluntary sterilization was rewarded by seven days of paid sick leave and by priority in the allocation of such public goods as housing and education. The policies were accompanied by publicity campaigns urging parents to "Stop at Two" and arguing that large families threatened parents' present livelihood and future security. The penalties weighed more heavily on the poor, and were justified by the authorities as a means of encouraging the poor to concentrate their limited resources on adequately nurturing a few children who would be equipped to rise from poverty and become productive citizens. *

Fertility declined throughout the 1970s, reaching the replacement level of 1.006 in 1975, and thereafter declining below that level. With fertility below the replacement level, the population would after some fifty years begin to decline unless supplemented by immigration. In a manner familiar to demographers, Singapore's demographic transition to low levels of population growth accompanied increases in income, education, women's participation in paid employment, and control of infectious diseases. It was impossible to separate the effects of government policies from the broader socioeconomic forces promoting later marriage and smaller families, but it was clear that in Singapore all the factors affecting population growth worked in the same direction. The government's policies and publicity campaigns thus probably hastened or reinforced fertility trends that stemmed from changes in economic and educational structures. By the 1980s, Singapore's vital statistics resembled those of other countries with comparable income levels but without Singapore's publicity campaigns and elaborate array of administrative incentives. *

Singapore’s Stop at Two Campaign Lives On

A writer with two brothers and a wife expecting their third child wrote in Singapore’s Today magazine: “The Government really did too good a job with the Stop At Two campaign in the 1970s. The combination of population disincentives — like progressively-higher hospital fees for each additional birth beyond two, and the removal of maternity leave for the third child and beyond — and the cute posters of the two happy sisters under a transparent umbrella, pretty much convinced Singaporeans to go easy on the child-bearing. [Source: Today, June 25, 2005 /*/]

“The population disincentives were not the only obstacles my parents had to deal with. My dad told me that at the hawker centres, where we used to eat as a family of five, people stared and gave us disapproving looks. As if our family was responsible for single-handedly bringing down the GDP of Singapore and depleting the scarce resources of our tiny island./*/

“You would think that decades after that family planning boo-boo, the taboo of having more children would be gone. But it is still there, ingrained into the very psyche of Singaporeans, despite the new incentives. Many of the reactions my wife has been getting about our third one have been congratulatory. But there are just as many negative ones, ranging from "tsk tsk" to "Oh my goodness, why did you decide to have another?" to "Have you gone out of your freaking mind?" /*/

“I am also wondering how I am going to fit the whole gang into my regular saloon car in future. Singapore is not a cheap place to own a car (when I tell Westerners how much it costs to buy one here, they laugh and do not believe me). Petrol has this bizarre way of going from a 10-per-cent discount to a 26-per-cent discount to a hike, all in one week. /*/

“The rising cost of health is also something that worries us. A wise taxi driver once told me, "In Singapore, it is better to die quickly than to fall sick!" But I am told I should not worry. On top of the improved medical insurance and the handy Medisave (or what some people call, your-money-you-won't-see-till-you-die), our Minister for Health says that a good son-in-law is also a good source of medical insurance. So we have Medisave, Medishield and Medi-Son. And if you do not find a good son-in-law to help you pay your medical bills, never mind. There are always hospitals in JB and Bangkok.” /*/

Efforts to Increase Population Growth in Singapore

The "Two is Enough" family-planning program of the 1960s and 70 was so successful that Singapore began changing its tune on population growth and having children in the 1980s. Because so many young couples are enjoying good life and not having any children at all the government started giving bonuses for having children. At the same time Chinese in Singapore worried about being outnumbered by the faster propagating Hindus and Malays. In 1987 a program called “Have Three or More if you Can Afford It” was launched.”

In an effort to boost the population growth rate, the government announced a “baby bonus plan” that increased maternity leave from two months to three months, provided the equivalent of $5,000 over six years to families that had a second child and doubled that for families having a third child, with the money being used to pay for education. The government has also eased rules on immigration to boost the population that way. Later "baby bonus" payments were increased to almost $10,000 and university hostels were built to draw students together, and flexible working hours were offered to civil servants so they could spend more "quality time" at home.

By the 1980s, the government had become concerned with the low rate of population growth and with the relative failure of the most highly educated citizens to have children. The failure of female university graduates to marry and bear children, attributed in part to the apparent preference of male university graduates for less highly educated wives, was singled out by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1983 as a serious social problem. In 1984 the government acted to ve preferential school admission to children whose mothers were university graduates, while offering grants of S$10,000 to less educated women who agreed to be sterilized after the birth of their second child. The government also established a Social Development Unit to act as matchmaker for unmarried university graduates. The policies, especially those affecting placement of children in the highly competitive Singapore schools, proved controversial and generally unpopular. In 1985 they were abandoned or modified on the grounds that they had not been effective at increasing the fecundity of educated women. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989 *]

In 1986 the government also decided to revamp its family planning program to reflect its identification of the low birth rate as one of the country's most serious problems. The old family planning slogan of "Stop at Two" was replaced by "Have Three or More, if You Can Afford It." A new package of incentives for large families reversed the earlier incentives for small families. It included tax rebates for third children, subsidies for daycare, priority in school enrollment for children from large families, priority in assignment of large families to Housing and Development Board apartments, extended sick leave for civil servants to look after sick children and up to four years' unpaid maternity leave for civil servants. Pregnant women were to be offered increased counseling to discourage "abortions of convenience" or sterilization after the birth of one or two children. Despite these measures, the mid-1986 to mid-1987 total fertility rate reached a historic low of 1.44 children per woman, far short of the replacement level of 2.1. The government reacted in October 1987 by urging Singaporeans not to "passively watch ourselves going extinct." The low birth rates reflected late marriages, and the Social Development Unit extended its matchmaking activities to those holding Advanced level (A-level) secondary educational qualifications as well as to university graduates. The government announced a public relations campaign to promote the joys of marriage and parenthood. In March 1989, the government announced a S$20,000 tax rebate for fourth children born after January 1, 1988. The population policies demonstrated the government's assumption that its citizens were responsive to monetary incentives and to administrative allocation of the government's medical, educational, and housing services. *

Possible measures suggested by Lee Hsien Loong to encourage parenthood include giving couples with young children higher priority for Housing Board flats, a Medisave (for healthcare) account for each newborn and allowing fathers to take paternity leave. Low- and middle-income families could get more help for infant care and childcare. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, Star, January 5, 2013]

Reasons Why Efforts to Increase Population Growth in Singapore Haven’t Worked

A government survey in January 2004 found that only 58 percent of Singaporeans listed marriage as a life goal and 47 percent wanted to start families. One 27-year-old employee at a major bank told the Asahi Shimbum she are her husband decided to buy dogs rather than have children. “We both have busy jobs, so dealing with kids and household chores would only end in fights. Our goal is to have careers and a harmonious household—not children.”

Peter Edidin wrote in the New York Times, “One obstacle is that Singaporeans do not appear especially, or even adequately, eager to have sex. In an annual global sex survey conducted by Durex, a condom manufacturer, Singapore ranked last, for the second year in a row, among 34 nations in the frequency with which men and women reported having sex. (Hungary is No. 1.) According to another study, of 1000 Singaporeans younger than 40, conducted by professor Victor Goh of the National University of Singapore, only 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women wanted sex more than six times a month. [Source: Peter Edidin, New York Times, February 8, 2004]

A 31-year-old human resources consultant who has been married for six years told Bloomberg: ''My mother-in-law hates me and she says I'm selfish, but I don't really care,'' said Ms Sim, a ''Everything's crazy expensive and life's already stressful enough here without kids. If there's no one to carry on the family name, then so be it.''

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “A public survey by Channel News Asia showed some 94 percent of people believed the impending measures would not encourage more Singaporeans to have babies. Critics say there need to be a dramatic change from the “rat race” environment – cheaper cost of living, especially housing, better job security, more living space – before more babies appear. But there was the other side of the story. The Economist ranked Singapore as the sixth best country for a baby to be born in, a creditworthy achievement – if only parents truly believe it. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, Star, January 5, 2013]

See Sex, Marriage

Efforts to Encourage Young Couples in Singapore to Have Children

In February 2010, Channel News Asia reported: “Voluntary welfare organisation "I Love Children" wants to encourage young couples to take their first steps towards parenthood. Its "Maybe Baby" campaign follows Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent call to couples to have more babies. Singing out the joys of parenthood is one way "I Love Children" hopes it can strike a chord with couples. The four-year-old organisation wants couples aged 21 to 39 to talk about having kids. [Source: Channel News Asia, February 22, 2010 ++]

“Its survey of 50 people showed that most wanted to focus on careers and being together. Some wanted more family support, while others said it is too costly to have babies. Joni Ong, president, "I Love Children" said: "The results show that, as expected, establishing their career, waiting for their finances to be built up, even trying to find more time for couplehood...those were some of the reasons that came up." ++

“To help couples get over teething fears, "I Love Children" has lined up several activities. Ms Ong said: "We have a ’Maybe Baby’ campaign coming up in April, May and we want people to start talking about parenthood. We want to talk about issues. We want them to come forth and share with us their issues, whether it be work—life balance, whether it be career establishing, and things like that. ++

“The "I Love Children" bus was launched three years ago and while it used to be bright orange, it has been given a new lease of life with a recent revamp. From next month onwards, it will be making its way round Singapore to the heartland shopping malls as well as the community centres. And the public will be able to hop onto the bus to find out more about the joys of parenthood. Meanwhile, a one-stop web portal will be launched in May to share parenting tips and the kinds of financial assistance available. “ ++

Maternity Leave in Singapore

Staring in August 2008 paid maternity leave in Singapore was extended from 12 weeks to 16 weeks. Channel News Asia reported: “To ease the burden on employers, the government will subsidise half of the cost for the first two confinements. For the first and second child, the first eight weeks of maternity leave will continue to be paid by the employer. For the third child onwards, all four months of maternity leave will be funded by the government, capped at S$40,000 per confinement including CPF contributions. [Source: Channel News Asia, August 21, 2008]

Most companies are positive about the new policies to encourage work-life balance for parents. But some small and medium-sized businesses have expressed concerns on how the new policies may affect their operations. Kurt Wee, vice president, Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said: "From an employers’ perspective, if you have a key person, and that person is away for four months, you obviously have to find someone as capable, as experienced, as knowledgeable to fill in that role. I think the cost in itself would be quite mild and absorbable."

Under the new rules, those dismissed without sufficient cause within the last six months of pregnancy will be entitled to their benefits, up from the current three months. This is to prevent discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. In order to be eligible for the maternity benefits, mothers must have worked continuously for at least 90 calendar days before childbirth - half the current duration.

In 2007, Associated Press reported: “Singapore has relaxed its rules on maternity leave, now allowing single mothers to take 12 weeks away from work - as long as they marry the child's father within three months of the birth, a newspaper reported. Previously, women had to be married before the birth in order to be entitled to maternity leave. The changes were announced Monday in Parliament by Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, state minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports. She noted that as the government-sponsored leave must be taken with six months of the baby's birth, the marriage must take place within three months in order for the woman to enjoy the full leave, the Straits Times reported. In 2004, there were at least 540 out-of-wedlock births, the report said.

The change specifies that the mother must marry the father of the child to qualify, not just any man. It said the government and employer share the maternity leave costs for a woman's first two children. For her third and fourth children, the government handles full reimbursement. In another change, Parliament also announced that the natural parents of illegitimate children can claim parenthood tax rebates for their second, third and fourth children if they marry before the child turns 6. [Source: Associated Press, January 24, 2007]

“Hey Baby” and “Breeding for Brilliance” Campaigns in Singapore

Shamim Adam of Bloomberg wrote: “On a government website called 'Hey Baby, Singapore said it would boost its annual budget on marriage and parenthood to S$2 billion from S$1.6 billion, including spending on matchmaking, housing grants, subsidised childcare and fertility treatments, and cash gifts for babies. In 2001, the budget was S$500 million. [Source: Shamim Adam, Bloomberg, January 24, 2013]

The Prime Minister, who has four children, is encouraging couples to start a family earlier by giving priority public housing to those with children below 16. With some of the most expensive real estate in Asia, government-subsidised homes are the only affordable option for most young couples. The government will make a S$3000 contribution to childhood medical expenses and will announce measures on Thursday to make childcare more affordable.

The "breeding for brilliance" and “graduate mother’s program” campaign in the 1980s combined the idea of "eugenics” with the promotion to have more children. The aim was to improve the gene pool and give birth to super children. The program included payments to educated women for having children and tax breaks and matchmaking services for college-educated women who married college-educated men.

People from the lower classes were offered cheap apartments if they promised to be sterilized. Those that chose to have children had to pay increased delivery fees. Lee Kuan Yew said, “In a situation in which university-educated couples bear only one child while uneducated laborers bear three, our country would become less competitive, the economy would stagnate and there would be overall social decline.”

In February 2001, Lee Kuan Yew issued a plea 7 for educated women to give birth to three children. AFP reported: “Lee said immigration can make up the loss "but natural replacement is better." "Our educated should have three children per family," media reports on Wednesday quoted Lee as saying. "In this way we can keep strong that core of native-born Singaporeans. "They will keep Singapore going through thick and thin, and never give up no matter how difficult the problems." While immigrants can come to Singapore to work "as experts," it was native Singaporeans "who will stay and fight and win," he said. [Source: Agence France Presse, February 7, 2001]

Singapore Tells Citizens That Making Babies Is a Fun Thing to do

In February 2004,Peter Edidin wrote in the New York Times, “Valentine's Day approaches and romance — or at least heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and lingerie — is in the air. For most people, it's fun to spend Feb. 14 wrapped in a heavily commercialized atmosphere of love and lust. In Singapore, however, romance is a matter of national survival. As Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong proclaimed four years ago, "We need more babies!" The government identified the falling birth rate as a threat as far back as the 1980s. In response, it formed a "Working Committee on Marriage and Procreation," which presumably has been working but has so far not found a solution. [Source: Peter Edidin, New York Times, February 8, 2004]

Hoping to libidinize the people, the government-controlled newspaper, the Straits Times, has published articles like "Let's Get on the Love Wagon," with tips on finding secluded trysting places. And censorship laws, which until recently banned Cosmopolitan and Sex in the City, are slowly being relaxed. The government also has created an annual "Romancing Singapore" festival in February, "held to celebrate love, romance and relationships," according to the Straits Times. In 2004, the festival included a cologne, created by students from Singapore Polytechnic's School of Chemical and Life Sciences, formulated to create "a mood for love and romance."

Beyond that, there are two official matchmaking agencies, the Social Development Unit (for university graduates) and the Social Development Service (for everyone else). The government is particularly concerned about birthrates among the well-educated, as Singapore shifts toward high-skill industries such as software design. To attract single university graduates to its services, the Social Development Unit has redesigned its Web site, creating a "Friends"-like cyber lounge that it calls the LoveByte Café. The following are excerpts from the Web site: 1) Sun worshipers, hit the beach. Sun, sand and sea is a great equalizer to moods and tensions on a first date but observe suntan lotion decorum! 2) Take your date to your favorite book haunt! Books will give you some insight into your date's mind and provide valuable clues to garner a second date. If your date picks up a book on wine, it could be that he/she is into wine drinking. 3) By being in the know, you will not be caught in a situation where you run out of conversation topics. However, avoid discourteous or sensitive topics such as income, personal investments, past relationships and sexual experience.

4) A date is very similar to a job interview. You have to sell yourself. Nothing is more attractive than a person who is brimming with healthy self-confidence. 5) Experts say that more than words, it's your body language that creates the most impact. Be mindful of your subtle movements, a scratch on the head, folded arms, jiggling feet are telltale signs that broadcast to your date your real intents and purposes. When your date is speaking, nod or include your viewpoint. This shows that you are interested in what the other party has to say. 5) The adage "you are what you eat" cannot be more true — diet, exercise and skin-care products are must-have investments. ... Every nook and cranny of your visage needs to be primped and pampered before the big date.

6) As you get more experienced with life and dating (aka growing older, maturing), you learn to read between the lines. A) "I'm not ready for a relationship right now," translates to "You're not the one." B) "It's not you, it's me," translates to "It IS you." 3) "Let's just be friends" means "Looooong distance friends."

Is any of this working? Apparently not. In 2003, only 37,633 babies were born in Singapore. "We have to change people's mind-sets so they think of making babies as something that's happy," Lee Hsien Loong, the incoming prime minister, said.

Surrogacy in Singapore

Jamie Ee Wen Wei wrote in The Strait Times, “For some Singaporean couples desperate to have a baby, surrogacy is the answer if all else fails. Because renting a womb is illegal here, they turn to countries like Malaysia, the Philippines and India to find a surrogate mother to carry their child. At least two Singaporean couples are known to have successfully become parents through this method. [Source: Jamie Ee Wen Wei, The Strait Times, September 19, 2008]

“In the first case, a couple was reported to have approached the Dr L.H. Hiranandani Centre for Human Reproduction in Mumbai, India, in 2005. It supplied a surrogate mother who delivered a baby boy for them in May 2006. Mr Low Soo Meng, 50, who runs Greenhouse Adoption Agency which matched couples with surrogate mothers in China, told The Sunday Times that he has also helped a couple become parents. He started the service in 2006, but added that he stopped it last year because the surrogacy process became 'too long and complicated'. <<<

“For the last three years, another company has also been providing rent-a-womb services to childless couples here and abroad. Mr Michael Ho, who declined to reveal his age, offers this service under Asian Surrogates, which he set up with his wife. It has a website which is advertised on Google. For $45,000, they find a suitable surrogate mother overseas, arrange for the medical procedures and take care of the financial and legal issues involved. <<<

“He said that he receives about two to three inquiries from couples here every month. Three of his clients have followed up. In the first case, the surrogate mother miscarried, while in the second case a woman is now bearing a child for the couple. He did not want to elaborate on the third case. 'I found out that there were a lot of people with fertility problems who needed help,' said Mr Ho, who also runs an employment agency. <<<

“Dr Ann Tan, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Women & Fetal Centre, saw two patients last year who asked about it. One eventually went ahead with the procedure in the United States, where surrogacy is allowed, she said. Another popular destination is India, dubbed the world's fertility hub. Doctors there have reported seeing more Singaporean couples seeking egg donations and surrogate mothers over the years. <<<

“Dr Sunita Tandulwadkar, head of the department of obstetrics & gynaecology at Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, India, is one of them. Last year, a Singaporean Chinese couple flew to the city in western India to search for a surrogate mother to carry their baby, she told The Sunday Times. They were desperate as the wife could not conceive despite undergoing four cycles of IVF. But after three weeks and several advertisements placed in newspapers there, they still could not find a willing woman. They left the country heartbroken. <<<

“Couples who approach Mr Ho will apparently not have such problems. He claimed to have a pool of eight women who are willing to carry a baby for a fee. These women hail from rural villages in the Philippines and have been carefully screened, he said. All are under 30, married with at least one child, of good health and have at least a high school education. 'We have contacts in the Philippines who helped us to find these women,' he said. The women are 'educated and they know what they are getting themselves into', he added. <<<

“But finding a surrogate mother is just one part of the picture. Once the couple and surrogate mother enter into a surrogacy contract, they face a potentially risky procedure that will stretch over almost a year. Mr Ho said the couple will fly to the Philippines to choose the surrogate mother and harvest the eggs and sperm for IVF treatment. After that, the embryo will be implanted into the surrogate mother. During the pregnancy, the surrogate mother will be taken care of by a 'coordinator', usually a neighbour or relative, who will be paid by Mr Ho. <<<

“The next time the couple meet the surrogate mother will be when the baby is born. For the nine months of labour, the surrogate mother is paid about $20,000 - half of the entire fee. But surrogacy is no panacea for childless couples. As with all fertility treatments, there is no guarantee of a baby. This was the case for a Singaporean couple in their 50s. According to Mr Ho, the surrogate mother suffered a miscarriage during the term and so the couple remain childless today. The other cases he is handling involves two couples from Thailand. One couple have found a Filipino surrogate mother who is carrying their child. <<<

“Doctors interviewed said surrogacy is fraught with medical risks. First, there are risks in IVF, said Dr Surinder Singh, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the TMC Fertility Centre in Johor Baru. About 30 percent of its clients are Singaporeans. The common risks include ovarian hyperstimulation (when the ovaries produce too many eggs in response to the hormone injections) and high-order multiple pregnancies (triplets or more, as they may deliver prematurely). Second, the surrogate mother may also face complications during the pregnancy and labour. <<<

“Legal and medical experts also warned of the legal and ethical issues involved in the procedure. It becomes especially complicated when the eggs of the surrogate mother is used. This is known as natural surrogacy or the straight method. Lawyer Alvin Chang from the M&A Law Corporation here said: 'How do you declare that the child is yours when the birth is by another woman?' Dr Singh said: 'It is not as easy as you think. My feel is that couples who go for surrogacy don't know enough about it. If they understand what they are in for, I think many of them will find that it's not worth their while.'

The Straits Times reported that there are at least 2,000 women seeking in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) each year.

Birth Control and Abortion in Singapore

As of 1986, 74 percent of married women of childbearing age practiced contraception. Abortions are often the birth control method of choice. At that time over 15,000 were performed each year. Another common method of birth control is sterilization of which 21 percent have had done by women compared to only 1 percent of men.

In 2009, Channel News Asia reported: “About 12,000 foetuses are aborted in Singapore every year and doctors say not enough people are using contraception, or are not using them correctly. Said Dr Beh Suan Tiong, president of the Obstetrical & Gynaecological Society of Singapore: "Some of them may be using condom incorrectly (and) not infrequently. "Many husbands do not use condom right from the start of the sexual activity, (they) wait till they are near ejaculation before they put it on, and that defeats the purpose." [Source: Channel News Asia, July 12, 2009]

While some doctors suggest couples use contraception if they do not want to have babies, many women say they fear the side effects. For example, some inaccurately think that birth control pills may be linked to cancer or weight gain, and others have the misconception that the intrauterine system makes sexual intercourse uncomfortable and carries an infection risk. While this may have had some truth to it with the older copper intrauterine device, the newer hormone-releasing intrauterine system carries less risk. Said Dr Beh: "Every contraception method do carry some potential side effects but they actually rank much less compared to the risk of abortion."

Of the 12,000 births terminated every year, about half are done by married women. Every one in 300 abortions is likely to develop complications such as an injury to the womb or an infection, which can lead to infertility. The negative psychological effects of an abortion are also well documented. Some pro-life groups advocate the use of natural family planning which tracks a woman’s ovulation by measuring body temperature and cervical secretions.

Migration to Singapore

Singapore has for years rolled out the welcome mat for foreign workers. Singapore's reliance on immigration to keep the population steady saw the number of non-Singaporeans swell from 14 percent to 25 percent of the population in the 1990s. Native Singaporeans have opted to put career and money ahead of family. The numbers of foreign workers rose drastically during the economic boom from 2004 to 2007. At the height of the influx, in the year to June 2008, the nation added 251,000 people. But after the 2008 global financial crisis, the government took a fresh look at its open-door policy following complaints from citizens that foreigners were increasingly competing for jobs, housing, medical care and even for space on metro trains.

Since the city's founding in 1819, the size and composition of Singapore's population has been determined by the interaction of migration and natural increase. Throughout the nineteenth century, migration was the primary factor in population growth. Natural increase became more important after the 1920s, and by the 1980s immigration and emigration were of minor significance. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Singapore's population was composed largely of immigrant adult males, and grew primarily through immigration. By the 1920s, the proportion of women, the percentage of the population that was Singapore-born, and consequently the relative contribution of natural increase to the population, all were increasing. By the 1947 census, 56 percent of the population had been born in Singapore, and there were 1,217 males for every 1,000 females. The 1980 census showed that 78 percent of the population had been born in Singapore and that the sex ratio had reached 1,042 males for every 1,000 females. [Source: Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Migration to Singapore dwindled during the Great Depression of the 1930s, ceased during the war years of 1941 to 1945, and resumed on a minor scale in the decade between 1945 and 1955. Most nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century immigrants came from China, India, or Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. Between 1945 and 1965 immigrants came primarily from peninsular Malaya, which shared British colonial status with Singapore and so permitted the free movement of people between Singapore and the rural areas and small cities of the peninsula. After independence in 1965, Singapore's government imposed strict controls on immigration, granting temporary residence permits only to those whose labor or skills were considered essential to the economy. Most such workers were expected to return to their homelands when their contracts expired or economic downturns made their labor redundant. Illegal immigrants and Singaporeans who employed them were subject to fines or imprisonment. The immigrants of the 1980s fell into two distinct categories. The first category, unskilled labor for factories and service positions, was composed largely of young unmarried people from Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and India. Regulations prohibited their marrying without prior official permission and required women to be tested for pregnancy every six months--measures intended to make it difficult for them to attain Singaporean residence or citizenship by becoming the spouse or parent of a citizen. The second category comprised skilled workers, professionals, and managers, often working for multinational corporations. They came from Japan, Western Europe, North America, and Australia. Predominately middle-aged and often accompanied by their families, they were immigrants only in the strict sense of the government's population registration and had no intention of settling permanently in Singapore. *

The 1980 census reported that 9 percent of Singapore's population were not citizens.The aliens were divided into permanent residents (3.6 percent of the population) and nonresidents (5.5 percent). The acquisition of Singapore citizenship was a complex and often protracted process that began with application to the Immigration Department for permanent resident status. After residing in Singapore for two to ten years, depending on skills and professional qualifications, those with permanent resident status could apply to the Registry of Citizens for citizenship. In 1987 citizenship was granted to 4,607 applicants and denied to 1,603 applicants. The 1980 census showed that 85.5 percent of citizens had been born in Singapore, 7.8 percent in China (including Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan), 4.7 percent in Malaysia, and 1 percent in the Indian subcontinent (including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka). Singapore's government, keenly aware of the country's small size and the need to survive by selling the skills of its citizens in a competitive international marketplace, was determined not to permit the citystate to be overwhelmed by large numbers of unskilled rural migrants. In 1989 Singapore mounted a campaign to attract skilled professionals from Hong Kong, offering a Chinese cultural environment with much lower living costs than Hong Kong's. At the same time, however, that the government was attempting to attract skilled professionals, Singaporeans themselves were emigrating. From July 1987 to June 1988, records show that 2,700 Singaporeans emigrated to Australia, 1,000 to Canada, 400 to the United States, and 97 to New Zealand. A large number of the emigrants were university-educated professionals, precisely the category that Singapore wished to keep and attract. In 1989 a special government committee was reported to be devising policies to discourage emigration by professionals and managers.

Foreigners and Permanent Residents in Singapore

An estimated 2 million foreign nationals now live in Singapore, which has a total population of about 5.4 million. The government-engineered immigration push almost doubled Singapore’s population between 1990 and 2012. In 2006, the government granted PR permits to 58,200 and citizenship papers to 13,900 foreigners.

Every year about 100,000 foreigners in search of work—and who become permanent residents— arrive in Singapore. They have been allowed to provide labor and compensate for Singapore’s low birth rate. With 1.20 babies per couple, Singapore’s birth-rate is one of the lowest in the world and threatens its long-term survival. Singaporeans are also ageing rapidly, which may require young people to pay higher taxes to look after them.

The Singaporean government has said immigration was needed to help offset a slowing birth rate and ageing population, and it needed to find a balance between the number of Singaporeans and foreigners in order to sustain its rate of economic growth. A white paper on the issue said: "If we do too little to address the demographic challenge, we risk becoming a steadily greying society, losing vitality and verve, with our young people leaving for opportunities elsewhere...But if we take in too many immigrants and foreign workers, we will weaken our national identity and sense of belonging, and feel crowded out of our own home."

Permanent Residents in Singapore, See Ethnic Groups and Minorities

Tapping the Flow of Migrants to Singapore

The Wall Street Journal reported: Singaporeans “often complain that immigrants add to traffic, take local jobs and help push property prices out of reach for some younger families, among other problems. The government has responded with a number steps in recent years to limit the number of foreign workers coming in, such as an increase in levies employers pay to bring in foreign workers. [Source: Sam Holmes and Shibani Mahtani, Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2011]

Sim Chi Yin wrote in the New York Times, “About a million of those newcomers arrived in the past decade, drawn by financial incentives and a liberal visa policy aimed at counteracting Singapore’s famously low birthrate. More than a third of Singapore’s residents are now foreign-born. The government has refused to release figures on immigrant origins, but nearly half have come from Southeast Asia. Outlandishly wealthy arrivistes come London, Dubai New Delhi and China. Among them is Eduardo Saverin, the Brazilian-born co-founder of Facebook whose decision to trade his American passport for Singaporean residency provoked a tempest in Washington this year. [Source: Sim Chi Yin, New York Times, July 27, 2012]

“The government has already started to adjust the spigot. The number of new permanent residents has decreased by nearly two-thirds since 2008, when 80,000 applications were accepted, while the number of people granted citizenship has remained level at about 18,500 a year, according to the National Population and Talent Division. Despite the growing animus, Singapore remains the third most desirable immigration destination for affluent Chinese after the United States and Canada, according to a survey by the Bank of China and the Hurun Report, which compiles an annual list of the richest Chinese. “ [Ibid]

Singapore Government Predicts Population Half Foreigners by 2030

In January 2013, The Singaporean government said that it expected its population to increase by 30 percent to between 6.5 million and 6.9 million by 2030, with foreigners making up 45 percent of that number. AFP reported: “Foreigners could make up nearly half of Singapore's population by 2030, the government said as it unveiled its politically sensitive projection for a city of up to seven million boosted by young immigrants. In a white paper on population, the government said Singaporeans' flagging birth rates -- which have been below replacement levels for more than three decades -- necessitated immigration into the prosperous Southeast Asian nation. [Source: AFP, January 29, 2013]

The paper, released by the National Population and Talent Division, said the total population could range between 6.5 and 6.9 million by 2030. Foreigners would make up nearly half the population by then with the proportion of Singaporean citizens projected to fall to 55 percent from 62 percent as of June 2012.

"We do not expect our TFR to improve to the replacement rate of 2.1 in the short term," the paper said. "Taking in younger immigrants will help us top up the smaller cohorts of younger Singaporeans, and balance the ageing of our citizen population," it added. "To stop our citizen population from shrinking, we will take in between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year," it stated, adding that the immigration rate would be reviewed "from time to time". The study said the government would take steps such as expanding transport networks and building more public housing to support the increase in population.

Campaign for More Kids Versus the Backlash Against Foreigners in Singapore

Immigration has been a politically sensitive issue for the government, which had in recent years widened the door for foreigners in order to sustain the city-state's economy. But their numbers were reduced following a social backlash, with foreigners blamed for problems including overcrowding, straining public services and driving up housing costs.

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “A much-disliked era of mass immigration, is beginning to split the country. For the public, the prospect of losing jobs to new arrivals is far more threatening than the prospective population decline in the coming decades. Together with an ageing population, the poor procreation is very real and threatens Singapore’s future prosperity, if nothing is done. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, Star, January 5, 2013]

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Why are so few Singaporeans moved by the government’s sense of urgency? Firstly, the general lethargy towards the issue could be due to the frequent government explanation that employers badly need foreign workers. To many, it gives the impression that the population issue is less important than economic targets. Secondly, many people seem to perceive it as government propaganda to justify bringing in more foreign workers – rather than as prevention of long-term decline of Singapore. [Ibid]

Shamim Adam of Bloomberg wrote: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong “is caught between a rock and a hard place. While the birth rate was about 1.3 children per woman in 2012 - barely enough to replace one parent - a backlash against soaring immigration forced the government to curb the influx of foreigners, leading to labour shortages and slower economic growth. The failure to encourage more births means the country will have to contend with a shrinking pool of workers and consumers, a deterrent to future investment. It will increase the burden on younger employees to pay for an ageing population. [Source: Shamim Adam, Bloomberg, January 24, 2013]

Singapore resorted to immigration in recent years to raise numbers. ''No pro-natalist policy can bring the fertility rate back to replacement level,'' said Theresa Devasahayam, a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. ''The government is in a fix … it has little choice but to keep importing labour and keep the country's doors open to foreigners.''

In August 2012, 89-year-old Lee Kuan Yew lamented that the number of births in the city had halved since he came to power in 1959, even with twice as many people. ''If we go on like that, this place would fold up because there will be no original citizens left to form the majority,'' he said in a speech published in the Straits Times newspaper.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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