Friday, December 17, 2004

Singapore’s birth rate headed lower, unemployment rate headed higher 

Channel NewsAsia reports that Singapore’s birth rate is headed for a new record low. According to the report, there were only 30,581 babies born in the first ten months of this year, 590 fewer than the 31,171 in the same period last year. It also cites the latest World Fact Book in saying that Singapore’s total fertility rate could drop from last year’s 1.25 to only 1.04.

The Singapore government’s pro-family schemes may help arrest the trend, but the employment outlook may prove to be an impediment.

According to another Channel NewsAsia report, in the third quarter of this year, the Singapore economy created more than 14,000 jobs, but the 2005 outlook is not as rosy. While the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.4 percent in September — the lowest in three years — the Manpower Ministry expects the jobless rate to climb to 4 percent by year-end as Singapore’s economic growth moderates.

A likely consequence of a weaker economy and higher unemployment is that employers may place pro-family policies lower down their priorities while employees themselves, facing a more uncertain job situation, may put off having babies.

Or maybe some of those who are unemployed but not financially stretched may simply take the time off to raise babies, thus boosting the birth rate instead. Somehow, though, I doubt it.


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