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Boosting Singapore's low birth rate: Indranee Rajah, young parents discuss

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With Singapore’s resident total fertility rate dropping below 1 for the first time - hitting a historic low at 0.97 last year in 2023 - we discuss how the birth rate can be boosted.

Synopsis: Every second Monday of the month, The Straits Times takes a hard look at social issues of the day with guests.

For many years in Singapore, we have not had enough babies to replace ourselves, with the Total Fertility rate, or TFR, remaining below the replacement rate of 2.1. 

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Indranee Rajah - who assists in oversight of the National Population and Talent Division in the PMO - said in Parliament on Feb 28, that preliminary estimates indicate a resident TFR of 0.97 in 2023, posing twin demographic challenges for Singapore alongside an ageing population.

In this episode, ST podcast assistant editor Lynda Hong hosts Ms Indranee to find out how workplaces here can become more family-friendly, and debates what an “excellent parent” should ideally mean in this day and age.  

Two young parents - unmarried to each other - are also in the studio to ask Ms Indranee about how Singapore's workplaces can be made friendly for parents juggling child-rearing responsibilities. 

Mr Daniel Lim, a 31-year-old research analyst, is a father of three. Ms Deniece Grace Foo, 37, runs Emerge Arts and Media Academy, a performing arts school for children. She has two young children. 

They also share their personal challenges and joys in raising a family. 

Highlights (click/tap above):

1:40 The government-paid paternity leave has just been doubled to four weeks on a voluntary basis; Minister Indranee on how the take-up rate is at just over 50% for now

2:33 Deniece asks the Minister: What can be done to support manpower challenges faced by SMEs?

7:38 Minister Indranee addresses the fear of a lack of mobility in one's career due to flexible work arrangement requests, and why Singapore employers who are hesitant to adopt such practices, should see it as a competitive advantage in hiring

9:20 Daniel’s experience as a "young parent employee", on "wanting to succeed at home and at work", and Deniece’s experience as an young employer helping "young parent employees"

23:24 Daniel asks the Minister: Would there ever be a form of grandparents childcare leave, especially if they will be the new "young working seniors" in future? Can Singapore be branded as one of the most "family-friendly nations" globally?

31:20 Minister Indranee on a line in her Parliament speech, on how “pressures to be an excellent parent” is one of the concerns to having children;

35:10 Daniel and Deniece on juggling pressures to be "excellent" young parents

Produced by: Lynda Hong (lyndahong@sph.com.sg), Ernest Luis, Hadyu Rahim & Amirul Karim

Edited by: Hadyu Rahim & Amirul Karim

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