Book 4-2 1. Why was a rapidly rising population a problem for Singapore in the 1950s and 60s? a.

Singapore’s postwar baby boom led to a sudden population explosion, putting pressure on land, housing, employment, healthcare and education. i. Between 1950 and 1960, the population grew by over 50% to about 1.64 million in size. ii. With a belief of better days ahead, families mushroomed in size partly because of the cultural belief of having big families as wealth and guarantee for old age e.g. average 6 to 7 children per family iii. This led to a serious housing shortage as the SIT could not meet the population demand. iv. Even with the HDB set up, if population growth did not slow down, it would not have been able to meet demand. v. Squatters and slums were prevalent (refer to 4-3). vi. Hazards such as fire and disease were rampant (common). vii. Healthcare facilities and education were still very basic and small in numbers (refer to 4-1). viii. The lack of large scale industrial development and a falling entrepot meant employment opportunities were limited. ix. As a new nation and government, it was very difficult to solve all the problems above. Therefore there was a need to control Singapore’s population growth. 2. How did Singapore control the population crisis? a. In order to slow down the annual birth rate, the government set up the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board in 1966. i. The plans to reduce fertility aimed at:. 1. Stressing the need for small families and its advantages to young couples/parents. This suggested that smaller families were more affordable 2. Promoting the idea that 2 is enough regardless of the child’s sex. This was important because it helped counter the problem caused by wanting male babies to carry on the family name 3. keeping Singapore’s fertility rate at 2.1 per women so that there would be sufficient children to replace the population ii. In order to do this, the government introduced various measures to slow down population growth. iii. The first was to legalized abortions for women and encouraging the use of contraceptives. iv. Campaigns using posters, pamphlets and television also stressed the attractiveness of having no more than 2 children per family. v. The government also took measures to dissuaded people from having big families. vi. For example, women would not be given maternity leave for the 3 rd or subsequent child born, effectively making it less affordable for working mothers to have more than 2 kids. vii. The government also gave no income tax relief for the 4th and subsequent child, and increased the delivery charges in government hospitals for each additional child. This effectively made it more expensive for families to have more children.


viii. It also gave no priority to large families in the queue for HDB flats in a move to dissuade couples from having large families. The typical queue time for a HDB flat was about 3-5 years. ix. The measures seemed to work as by 1975, the birthrate had fallen to the target of 2.1 children per woman. 3. In what way was the government responsible for the declining birthrate in Singapore? a. Based on numbers, the population control measures since the 1960s seemed to have worked well, perhaps too well. i. In 1960, a woman was expected to have 5.76 children. By 1970, that number had dropped to 3.07. But by 1980, it was now 1.82. The numbers continued to fall and by 2000, it was only 1.59 children per woman. ii. This would suggest that the disincentives laid out by the government and their campaign to promote a small family has obviously changed mindsets enough to reduce the birthrate. b. But the government alone wasn’t the main reason for the drastic drop in numbers. Marriage was getting delayed. i. With more education, Singaporeans were delaying their plans for marriage. ii. For instance, women now had more opportunities in employment compared to women in the 1960s. This meant that women would prefer the satisfaction of employment versus the vocation of a homemaker. iii. The average age of a bride was 22 in 1960. By 2000, the average was closer to age 27. iv. Later marriages which would affect fertility as age tends to reduce the number of babies women would have. c. Expectations of family size had also changed. i. Younger couples valued their time without kids and delayed having children until they were ready. ii. They preferred the time and financial freedom of having no children as they pursued a more material rich lifestyle. iii. Even then, they would prefer to have smaller families e.g. 1 -2 kids so that they can give their children a better quality of life iv. Therefore, families sizes also got smaller. d. Many Singaporeans were remaining unmarried. i. There was also a disturbing trend of more Singaporeans remaining unmarried. ii. For instance from 1980 to 1989, single women aged 35-39 increased from 8.5% to 12%. Similarly, single men figures increased from 10.1% to 15.1%. iii. With more unmarried people, it also resulted in fewer babies born. 4. Why is falling birthrates a problem for Singapore? a. Shortage of manpower, talents, soldiers and an ageing population. i. With a falling birthrate, Singapore’s labour shortage would worsen. ii. This would result in a lack of young, cheaper and creative workers to sustain Singapore’s economic development and could even force investors to leave Singapore for other countries. iii. Lesser young people might also mean a shrinking talent pool required to drive the economy as well as form the leadership in government. This would affect Singapore’s ability to continue good governance as well. 2

iv. Moreover, Singapore would suffer from fewer young men serving national service to defend Singapore. This might weaken our defence against potential aggressors. v. For instance, the number of young men entering NS fell from 22 000 in 1980 to 17 000 in 1985. vi. Ultimately, a falling birthrate would result in an ageing population which might put a strain on the country’s resources in taking care of them. vii. With fewer youthful workers taking care of a bigger group of elderly workers or retirees, the burden on the younger workers and the government would also be greater. viii. More and more resources would have to be diverted to elderly care in healthcare and other social services, but with less and less contributors. ix. Thus it is very important that more babies are born to replace the present Singaporean population if we are to maintain our present development. 5. How did Singapore try to boost population growth and was it effective? a. Since 1987, the government has tried to reverse the trend by providing incentives to have more children (internal). i. The official campaign now was have 3 or more children if you can afford them. ii. Previous disincentives were reversed to help Singaporeans have more children. iii. For instance, the HDB gave priority to families with 3 or more children in buying bigger flats. iv. It also allowed the use of medisave in hospitalization and delivery charges for the 1st 3 children, making it more affordable for couples to have more kids. v. Income tax relief was also given to the main breadwinner for up to 4 children, thereby freeing more money for families to take care of children. vi. And a monthly subsidy was given to working mothers for each child up to the forth child attending approved childcare centres. This helps defray the cost of childcare for parents. b. But these measures had limited impact. i. In 1988 the number of children per woman went up from 1.49 in 1986 to 1.96 in 1988. However, this was due to the Year of the Dragon, an auspicious year for the Chinese in having babies. ii. By 2000, the number had fallen back to 1.59. iii. That figure had fallen to about 1.2 by 2005. iv. Many were unconvinced of the need to have children as life style considerations probably outweighed the desire for babies. v. Even then, couples preferred having 1-2 kids. vi. The number of later marriages and unmarried singles continued to climb. Both of which contributed to the low birthrate. vii. One possible reason was that couples and the younger generation were looking at more family friendly practices, such as childcare leave for both the father and mother, more understanding with less damage to careers at the workplace especially to women, extended maternity leave periods for mothers, and more infant care facilities instead of relying on extended families e.g. grandparents to take care of children.


viii. These measures were slowly introduced in 2004 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the indications are that there is a sight reverse of the decline. ix. However, having kids isn’t just about incentives but is a value and attitude to life. Thus the government has started to promote the idea more aggressively. It remains to be seen how effective these measures would be. c. On the other hand, the government has started to attract foreign talent to boost our dwindling talent pool. i. Following the lead of successful countries such as Switzerland where foreign talent helped build their economy (about 17% are foreigners), Singapore started attracting foreign talents by: 1. Relaxing immigration laws to attract foreigners with skills Singapore required. 2. Easier entry, together with subsidized housing and educational packages for families of foreign talents working in Singapore ii. In effect, these foreign talents would help create jobs and productivity in Singapore. iii. They would also bring along knowledge, skills and investors into Singapore, all of which would boost Singapore’s economy. iv. Moreover, with more foreigners in Singapore, Singapore has become more cosmopolitan e.g. diverse type of foods d. Was it successful in boosting the population? i. Singapore’s total population was improved by 1% thanks to foreigners. ii. However, this solution is inadequate and fails to address the falling numbers. iii. Much depends on increasing Singapore’s total fertility. 6. Why is Singapore’s population ageing? a. As discussed earlier, Singapore’s falling birthrate is contributing to an ageing population (refer to question 4) b. However, there are 2 other reasons. i. The first is the postwar baby boom. ii. Due to a baby boom since the 1950s, Singapore now boost a large population aged from 35-54. This means that by 2030, there would be some 18.9% or 796 000 elderly people in Singapore in a country of over 4 million. iii. The second reason is the longer life-expectancy of Singaporeans. iv. Average life expectancy of men is now at 75 or more, while women are pegged at 80. v. This is due to a good healthcare infrastructure that has well equipped hospitals with the latest medical procedures, equipment, medicine, trained professions and comprehensive disease protection practices such as immunization against diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis B. vi. A higher standard of living has also contributed to the higher life expectancy. vii. There is clean water, good sanitation and a more health conscious population; all of which contributes to longer life.


7. What are the problems of an ageing poulation? a. As discussed briefly in question 4, an ageing population is an undesired outcome. Here are more detailed answers why this would be a problem. b. Demand for healthcare and social services. i. The aged are more likely to require medical attention as their bodies grow older. ii. Problems would include loss of hearing, failing eyesight, arthritis, diabetes and other age-related medical conditions. iii. As such, there would be a greater need for caregivers for the elderly. iv. If families are larger in size, younger family members could help take care of the aged. v. But with smaller families, this would be difficult, resulting in the need to create professionals like geriatric nurses to help the elderly in day care centres or nursing homes. vi. Moreover, Singapore’s health budget is expected to double to 8% in 2030 because of this. vii. This would mean less money for other areas of government e.g. education. c. Strain on working people. i. The government depends on taxes on people and companies to run the government including medical care for elderly people. ii. With a ever shrinking pool of younger workers, and more elderly workers or retirees, more taxes would have to be imposed on the younger workers to take care of the elderly people. iii. For example, in 2000, 9.8 working adults supported 1 elderly person. iv. By 2030, it would only be 3.5 working adults. v. Add the issue of rising medical cost (chapter 4-1), the burden would be even greater for future generations. 8. How should we cope with an ageing poulation? a. Singapore uses the many hands approach to deal with an ageing population b. On an individual level (mindset changes & actions):. i. Older people need to believe that they can continue working for a much longer period of time to sustain themselves rather than rely on retirement funds alone. This is important since cost of living is always rising; life expectancy is also rising while savings are limited. ii. Elderly people should also plan for old age by attending talks on retirement financial plans and so forth to ensure they remain independent for as long as they can. iii. They are also likely to be more educated, hence would be able to contribute to society in more ways by offering their work knowledge, work experience and talents. iv. A very good example would be Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew who is still advising the government whenever he is called upon to help ensure good governance. v. The aged should also maintain healthy lifestyle habits by exercising, eating right as well as go for regular checkups to delay or prevent major illnesses from affecting them, thereby lowering medical cost. vi. All of the above depends on the individual responsibility.


c. At the family level: i. Family members should continue to provide opportunities to interact with the elderly folks. ii. They should talk and do things together to ensure the emotional well-being of both family members and the elderly. iii. Moreover, as mentioned previously, younger family members must change mindsets to believe that the elderly are a reservoir of experience and knowledge which they can all upon. iv. For example, grandparents do help take care of young children. v. All of this helps ensure the family works together with the elderly person to take care of each other. d. At the community level: i. Voluntary welfare organizations can also help by providing essential elderly medical and emotional care. ii. An example of this would be the Home Nursing Foundation and the Singapore Action Group for Elders, which aims at taking care of elderly needs such as employment, medical needs, health checks etc. iii. Recreational activities run by these groups also helps keep elderly Singaporeans active and healthy, and this goes a long way in ensuring the elderly are well taken cared of in a dignified manner. e. At the government level: i. The government funds some of these VWOs in their activities for the elderly. ii. More importantly, the government creates opportunities for the elderly and their care-givers to help themselves. iii. For example, the CPF savings plan helps individuals plan for their retirement nest egg. At the age of 55, Singaporeans can withdraw their ordinary accounts although they must retain enough within their accounts for the retirement account. This helps individuals take personal responsibility. iv. Another example would be the “back to work programme” that helps senior citizens find work with training. v. It has also put in place schemes such as the public housing grant for couples intending to buy flats in mature estates close to their elderly parents to help them take care of each other. vi. Working adults would also be able to claim tax relief for taking care of parents and grandparents. vii. They would also be able to help the elderly save more money in the CPF. viii. In case children abandon their elderly parents, these parents can also seek financial support from their children through the Tribunal for the Maintenance of Parents (Court). ix. In this way, the government works through the “many hands approach” to help the elderly and their caregivers, grow old in a dignified and independent manner. Parting Shots: a) Mindsets need to be change – elderly are a wealth of experience & even opportunities for jobs (think OSIM & Nursing) b) Personal accountability – combine with self-reliance