Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean responded yesterday to a question in Parliament on whether Singapore could learn to manage its population from the European and Nordic countries that higher spending on pro-parenthood policies does not necessarily lead to more births.
Nordic countries, such as Sweden, Denmark and Norway, have relatively high total fertility rates (TFR) of between 1.88 and 1.98. These countries have a broad array of pro-parenthood measures, such as good child care systems, generous leave provisions and financial support for child raising costs.
Mr Teo, who is also the minister in charge of population policies, said pro-parenthood measures may vary across countries due to differing cultural and socio-economic norms.
For example, the Nordic countries have higher government spending on pro-parenthood measures, but they also have significantly higher tax rates, he said.
The personal income tax rates in the Nordic countries range from 29 per cent to 63 percent, compared to Singapore’s personal income tax rates of between 3.5 per cent and 20 percent.
Mr Teo reiterated that in the Nordic countries, a high proportion of births are to women who are not married to the father of the child.
Mr Teo said in contrast, Asian societies, including Singapore, continue to value having children within marriage.
He said creating a supportive environment for Singaporeans to form families and raise children remains a key government priority.
Beyond government measures, Mr Teo said there was a need to strengthen Singapore’s pro-family environment, where employers, family members and society-at-large all have a part to play.
Over the next few months, the government will engage various stakeholders to discuss new ideas as well as enhancements to existing measures aimed at improving the country’s birth rate.