SINGAPORE: Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has expressed concerns over Singapore’s low fertility rate.
He was speaking in Mandarin and English at the Tanjong Pagar—Tiong Bahru National Day celebration dinner on Saturday.
Mr Lee said Singapore’s birth rates have been steadily declining.
He stressed that Singaporeans are not reproducing themselves.
Giving some simple statistics, Mr Lee said the Chinese reproduction rate is 1.08 — with two Chinese becoming one in the next generation.
For the Indians, the rate is 1.09, and for the Malays — 1.64.
"If we go on like that, this place will fold up, because there’ll be no original citizens left to form the majority, and we cannot have new citizens, new PRs to settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms. So my message is a simple one. The answer is very difficult but the problems, if we don’t find the answers, are enormous," said Mr Lee.
He added that without the work permit holders to build the roads and homes and dig the tunnels, Singapore would be a very different place.
And without the permanent residents, Singapore’s population would be older, smaller, and will lose vitality.
"So our choice is simple. Either accept migrants at the rate at which we can assimilate them and make them conform to our values and have others on temporary work permit holders to help build up Singapore and improve," said Mr Lee.
But for the longer term, what’s important is to have a change in mindset.
Mr Lee said: "Our educated men and women must decide whether to replace themselves in the next generation. At the moment, 31 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men are opting out. Not leaving a next generation.
"So, just ponder over it and you will know the solution is not simple. But we’ve got to persuade people to understand that getting married is important, having children is important. Do we want to replace ourselves or do we want to shrink and get older and be replaced by migrants and work permit holders? That’s the simple question."
Speaking on the sidelines of the same dinner, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Chan Chun Sing, said the new Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will press on with efforts to help younger people get married and start families earlier.
Mr Chan, who will head the MSF from November, said many of the issues are challenges that cut across different ministries.
He said: "Mr Lee has laid out very clearly the challenges facing us as a country and as a society. And like what Mr Lee said, there are two aspects of this challenge. One has to do with the material aspects, the economic aspects, and this is the area where the government will do our best to help the younger people get married and start their families earlier.
"But like what Mr Lee said, the most important aspect has to do with the less tangible aspect, which has to do with the values we value as a society — the institution of the family. How do we see the institution, and the family as an institution in society. These are things we really need to work on as a society because it concerns our common future."
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