Increase birth rate? Dollars & cents and so much more

The latest Budget 2016 has included a new enhancement to the Marriage and Parenthood package.

The First Step Grant of $3000 will be deposited upfront into the CDA accounts of all newborn babies born from 24 March 2016.

Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat kicked off the social portion of his maiden Budget speech in Parliament, describing Singapore as a “great place to raise a family”.

I have to acknowledge that the measures rolled out by the government over the past 15 years has been significant.

With 6 kids, every Budget became interesting to watch, as we wondered what new measures would be rolled out in a bid to encourage more couples to start a family.

Photo credit: Straits Times online

Over the years, the schemes that have been administered have helped families, such as the CDA co-savings scheme, more maternity and paternity leave, the Proximity housing grant, more childcare centres and tax incentives for working mothers (although this last incentive seems to be dulled by the recent cap on personal income tax), just to name a few.

So why has there not been any resounding success in raising Singapore’s birth rate?

Perhaps it’s time to address the intangibles.

Having been a part-time financial adviser for 10 years, I worked with many couples and singles addressing issues such as family budgeting, retirement savings, and leaving legacies for future generations.

We often discuss the topic of having children and they are curious and marvel at how the hubs and I can manage to raise so many kids in Singapore. I tell them that we do it by eschewing all conventional methods.

Some even joke that the measure of wealth is no more by the 5 ‘C’s, but by how many Cs you can afford to have – yes, children.

For many couples, it is not that they do not want children, but the top 2 reasons I hear over and over again as to why they are hesitant to have kids or would stop at 1 or 2 are always the same.

The first is the financial burden, and the other is the stressful environment the children have to grow up in.

Right from the O&G medical expenses, hefty pre-school fees, tuition, enrichment classes, all the way to university fees, the figures are mind-boggling.

Besides the already daunting financial obligations, people share with me that the picture of raising children in today’s society does not seem appealing at all.

They look at their siblings, friends or neighbours and witness how their lives have transformed into a mad rush.

From hectic weekdays trying to juggle work, school and logistics, to even busier weekends ferrying their kids from one class to another. Week nights are not spared either, with parents having to rush home to coach their children in spelling or upcoming tests. Everyone seems to be sucked into a spiralling pressure cooker.

The other big issue which impacts a woman’s decision to have more kids is the dilemma of having to choose between work and caring for her children.

It’s time mothers have real options.

You want to work full time? Plenty of jobs available.

You want to stay-at-home? We will support you.

You want to work part-time? Of course.

You want your young kids to be close to you at work? Why not?

You want time off to care for your sick children and to be there for all their important events? We totally understand.

We want a career landscape where we are able to find a good balance between work and family.

The way families are living their days is testimony to what other young couples would want to aspire to.

To see families enjoying their lives together, actually being happy, is the best advertisement to encourage young couples to start a family.

The day that Singapore is truly a great place to raise a family, will be the day you see birth rates increasing.

Because the ones who want to have kids will have them anyway, and those who are hesitant will not be swayed by dollars and cents.

~ – a blog on parenting 6 kids in Singapore ~