This delay in marriage will also mean that Singaporean women will start to conceive at a later age (Thang 87). According to the Singapore’s Current Population Trends (Tan 5), the average age of Singaporeans having their first child have went up to over 28 years old ever since 1990 (refer to Fig3 below). This results in the lower TFR annually as married women have lesser amount of time to conceive another child which tallies with falling birth rate trend stated above.
Another reason that has led to the fall in the fertility rate from the 1970s to 2000s is the rising singlehood rates among both men and women in Singapore. Being single has become a norm, as increasing numbers of young Singaporeans choose to remain single. This could be due to the fact that there is less social pressure to get married before a certain age (Straughan 123). In the past, when people got married at a younger age due to the lack of stress to do well in society, there was much more pressure felt on those who were still singles in their late 20s by their families and friends. In the later years, more young singles who are in their 20s start to believe that they have a lot of spare time to search for their own life partners as more of their friends are still unmarried (Jones 92). This reduces the social pressure on them to get a partner at an earlier age. A report from the Singapore Department of Statistics has shown an increase of about 10% and 5% in the proportion of single males and females respectively ranging from age 30-39 from 1980 to 1990 (as shown in Fig4 below). With the increment in proportion of singles in the society, there will be fewer marriages and hence lesser number of babies that will be born annually, reflecting the fall in fertility rate across the years from the 1970s to the 2000s.
On top of that, the presumed marriage-related costs, such as housing and the wedding ceremony itself, influence the attitudes of individuals towards marriage (Jones 93). Over the years, due to rapid economic development, the cost of living has increased steadily as well. The rise in cost in raising the children, accommodation and the marriage ceremony itself has caused Singaporeans to think twice before considering to get married (Lindsay 91). According to (Quah 14), the traditional mindset that men should be able to provide for the house still remains as one of the key criteria that a woman have of their future spouse. Hence, there are increasingly more single men who would choose to work up to their mid-thirties so that they can become financially stable before deciding to get married. Therefore, this rise in cost of living could cause delays in marriages will result in fewer child bearings every year, causing a fall in the fertility rate from the 1970s to the 2000s.
Lastly, due to the less stressful kampung lifestyles in the early 1970s, there was a relatively high fertility rate of about 3 children per woman. Hence, the government decided to implement many anti-natalist government policies so as to moderate the number of babies being born each year (“Two child policy”). The implementation of the two-child family policy that took effect on 1 August 1973 was the start of all the anti-natalist policies. With the “Stop at 2” campaign, a number of disincentives for giving birth to more than 3 children were implemented. These disincentives included a cut in the amount of income tax relief to cover solely for the first three children; gradual increase in childbirth fees for each subsequent baby which are being imposed by public hospitals; a decrement in compensated maternity leave from three to two months; and giving families with more than 2 children lesser priority in getting a Housing and Development (HDB) flat (Yap 651). As Singaporeans are pragmatic people, they would rather value saving money and a home more than producing another baby (Tan 68). Hence, through the implementation of these policies, the government was successful in reducing the TFR from 3 children per woman to about the replacement level of 2.1 children in 1976. However, this TFR figure continued to fall and it reached a new low in 1986 with only 1.4 children per woman.
Seeing how the TFR has been hovering well below the replacement rate of 2.1, the Government felt that they had to step in to make amends to the past few anti-natalist policies if not the TFR will continue to fall further (Straughan 11). On 1 March 1987, the “Stop at two” policy has been replaced with “Have three, or more if you can afford it” policy. With this change, the government introduced numerous incentives to promote a higher fertility rate (Yap 653). These incentives include relieving personal’s income tax by increasing the amount of relief with each baby that is being born, from 1 March 1987 Medisave could also be utilized to pay for delivery and hospital charges for the third child and it also offers working mothers a $100 childcare subsidy for their first 3 pre-school children in government approved childcare centres, lessening their financial burden of raising a child. On top of that, there were policies that were catered to make working and raising a child easier for the women. These policies include allowing women working in the civil service sector to take up to 4 years of unpaid leave to take care of their child, being able to take up a maximum of 15 days of full wage leave and allowing women officers in the civil service to take up part time work up to 3 years.
Lastly, there was also loosening of the previous state policies. Families with 3 children are now given priority to enroll in primary school ever since from 1988. Moreover, since January 1987, couples with 3 children and more could sell their house more easily to purchase a bigger one. From 1994, young couples were finally given the opportunity to get a housing grant if they wanted to purchase a resale flat. Initially, the procreation incentives introduced by the PAP seemed to have led to an increase in the birth rates. According to (Yap 656), it can be seen that there was an increase of 0.4 children per woman since the pronatalist policies have been implemented. However, the fertility rate began to drop again from 1988 onwards. It never went back up to the replacement level of 2.1 since then.