Without specifying the amount, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a statement on Monday that the one-off support measure will come on top of the existing Baby Bonus cash gift, which already provides eligible parents up to SG$10,000 ($7,356) in benefits per child.
“We have received feedback that COVID-19 has caused some aspiring parents to postpone their parenthood plans. This is fully understandable, especially when they face uncertainty with their income,” Heng said. The new incentive is meant to assist these couples.
The Southeast Asian country has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, and it has long implemented various measures to encourage people to have more babies, such as offering working mothers tax rebates and increasing paid maternity leave to 16 weeks.
As Singapore’s birth rate has gradually decreased in recent decades, experts predict the downward trend will continue.
A 2019 study by voluntary welfare organisation I Love Children found that some 77 percent of newlywed couples plan to have children within three years of getting married. But fewer Singaporeans are tying the knot.
According to data from Singapore’s Department of Statistics, the percentage of single women aged 25 to 29 rose from 60.9 percent in 2007 to 68.1 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, single men in the same age range rose from 77.5 percent in 2007 to 80.7 percent in 2017.
Sociologist Paulin Straughan of the National University of Singapore told The Straits Times that the growing rate of singles could be because many Singaporeans now choose to focus on their careers.
“The pressure to perform is very strong as the rewards of employment are immediate. There's a promotion at the end of the year, a bonus and you get praised. But if you invest time to find a life partner, nobody's going to praise you,” he said.
As of Oct. 6, Singapore had 191 active cases of COVID-19 with a total of 57,830 cases. The country has been slowly reopening establishments and businesses with new social distancing and contact tracing protocol to help boost the country’s economy.