THE Government handed out almost S$38mil (RM79.8mil) to 29,000 children last year in a renewed quest for more babies.
But the gift, under the baby bonus programme introduced in April 2001, did not reverse the downward slide in the number of births.
On the contrary, it got worse, hitting a 14-year low of 40,800 last year.
Blame it on the recession, couples said, when informed of the new figures released on Wednesday by the Government.
Accountant Jason Seah, who is married and childless, said: “Frankly, when you’re not sure of holding on to a steady job, starting a family is the last thing you think about.
“The uncertainty in the world with the terrorism threat also makes you think twice.”
What has perhaps added to the baby woes, which have plagued Singapore since the 1980s, is the rising infertility rate.
One in five married couples find it difficult to conceive, a report last month disclosed.
Singapore’s chief baby promoter said on Wednesday that with the popular lifestyle argument by young couples – who prefer to concentrate on their careers first –the figure was not unexpected.
Chan Soo Sen, chairman of the Family Matters, a unit in the Ministry of Community Development and Sports, said: “We are not alone. Most developed countries have the same problem and we are approaching their state of development.
“So we should not be so pessimistic and say that something is wrong with us.”
He called the decline “disappointing” but he was not fazed by it, pointing to the rise in the number of marriages last year, the first time in three years.
A total of 22,487 tied the knot, 196 more than 2001.
Among the measures to encourage marriage and motherhood, especially among the better educated, were match-making services, tax incentives and increased childcare facilities, as well as graduated tax rebates in 1990 for mothers getting a second child before they hit the age of 32.
But, as Chan concedes, “having children is not simply a matter of dollars and cents and people won’t do it because of financial incentives.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network