Singapore mulls Swedish way to cure baby blues

Singapore is mulling the adoption of Sweden's procreation policies to address the country's chronic baby shortage, founding father Lee Kuan Yew said in remarks published on Thursday.

Financial incentives unveiled in recent years to encourage married Singaporeans to have more babies have failed to significantly boost the country’s fertility rate which stood at 1.29 babies born per woman in 2007.

But Singapore needs a fertility rate of 2.1, or at least two children per woman, for the population to replace itself naturally, according to government figures.

“If we don’t reproduce ourselves to 2.1, we are in trouble,” said Lee, who was quoted in The Straits Times newspaper.

“So we are going to revamp. We’ve studied what the Swedes have done, what the French have done,” he told a forum.

He referred to Sweden’s policy of having the state pay for paternity leave and creches, among other things, to encourage couples to have children.

“We are looking at our budget, can we afford it? But we’ve got to go because these are proven ways,” said Lee, who remains an influential figure in the government with the title of Minister Mentor under his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

But Lee was also quoted as saying that, to preserve its identity, the country must have a core of at least 65 percent of people born and bred in it, “who know how we got here”.

Singapore has a population of almost 4.6 million, including about one million foreigners who work in the city-state.

Figures from the Department of Statistics website show 39,490 babies were born in Singapore last year, or a fertility rate of 1.29 babies per woman.

Singapore has said its economic future will be at risk if it fails to properly address its baby shortage and ageing population.

The city-state has also embarked on an aggressive drive to attract immigrants to avert a serious population shortage.