Goal: Identify the focus areas for interventions to improve lower fertility rate in Singapore.

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Total fertility rate refers to the number of children born to a woman in her childbearing years. It is important for any country to maintain the fertility rate at a certain level (2.1 for developed countries as recommended by the World Health Organization), so that the population of the country can replace itself. This is required to maintain a balance in the age distribution in the population. The problem of aging population refers to having more individuals in the senior age group and fewer individuals in the younger age groups. This is referred to as an inverted pyramid population distribution. A larger number of individuals in the senior age group implies higher healthcare costs for the government coupled with lower taxes collected from the productively employed working population.

This study attempts to identify the factors correlated with lower fertility rate where interventions can be recommended. The interactive dashboard is found here.

How does Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) compare to other countries of similar socio-economic and human development levels?

Singapore’s total fertility rate is compared to other countries of similar socio-economic level and Human Development Index (HDI). Source data was obtained from the World Bank. The data shows that Singapore has one of the lowest fertility rates compared to other countries. Also, the fertility rate of Singapore is significantly lower than the recommended rate of 2.1 for developed countries.

What is the population distribution trend within Singapore?

Historically, Singapore’s population has followed a population pyramid, with a greater number of younger individuals than older individuals. However, the population trend has been shifting to an inverted pyramid — the number of younger individuals is declining relative to older individuals. This means that the country has an aging population. The projected population distribution for 2022 has also been estimated using Tableau and shows no change from the current trend. This aging population implies higher health expenditures for the country. There will also be fewer individuals in the younger age group with taxable income to support the healthcare requirements of the older age group.

What is the age-specific distribution of married couples without children? Must there be focus on this area to change the trend?

The number of couple-based households without children has been increasing for all age groups. Specifically, the number of households (without children) whose head is below 35 years of age started to increase again since 2013. If the trend for this age group does not change, the number of couple-based households above 35 years of age will grow rapidly in the coming years. This will result to the growth on aging couples with no children to care for them. Initiatives are necessary to change this trend and encourage Singaporean households to have children at an earlier stage of marriage. Reasons causing this trend must be investigated to provide the necessary interventions.

Is it affordable for households in Singapore to have children? Is the average gross monthly income of an average Singaporean adult growing fast enough to cope with the basic needs of having children? Where should the focus on economic incentives be?

The graph shows that the gross monthly income of Singaporean households is increasing at a greater rate than the increase in the cost of living index for the basic expenditures associated with a family, such as Food, Shelter, Health Care, Education and Clothing. This means that the average income of an average Singaporean household is growing fast enough to provide for the basic needs of a household. This trend suggests that the average Singaporean can afford to have a family. However, even with existing economic incentives, the fertility rate has not increased in several years. To reverse this trend, additional economic incentives may be explored targeted to raising the standard of living such as family travel, car ownership incentives, household help and child care services.

What is the age-specific marriage rate trend in Singapore? Should the cause of late marriages be investigated? Should relevant campaigns be created to address the causes of late marriages?

A shift towards later marriages occurred since 2007. Women of older age groups (above 30 years old) showed higher marriage rates than women of younger age groups (below 30 years old). According to these statistics, the population of women under 30 years old with high (university-level) educational qualifications are increasing. Similarly, female spouses holding managerial, administrative, technical and professional roles have increased over the past ten years. Both educational qualifications and occupation are clearly factors that demonstrate a linear correlation to late marriages. This trend calls for interventions to encourage women around this age bracket to marry and have children while at the same time preserving and supporting women’s educational and professional goals. In addition, infant mortality in high-income countries is lowest when maternal age is below 35 years (Flenady et al, 2011). This provides the maximum probabilities that the babies are healthy. Thus, for statistical and medical reasons, the targeting of the age bracket is justified.

Conclusion:

The lower fertility rate is prominent in the age group below thirty-five years. In addition, higher educational achievement and career advancement of women demonstrated a linear correlation to lower fertility rates. Indications of Singaporean households for a higher standard of living is also evident. Interventions through public campaigns or incentive programs for the population in this age group and focus areas may help to realize the country’s need to improve the population distribution.

Team Members: Liu Cong (A0163299R), Qi PengYu (A0163393B), Tagaan Rosalie (A0163455A), Tyagi Arti (A0163343L), Xian Sirui (A013435H)

Data Sources:  The World Bank, Singapore’s Public Data, Department of Statistics Singapore

Reference:  Vicki Flenady, Laura Koopmans, Philippa Middleton, J Frederik Frøen, Gordon C Smith, Kristen Gibbons, Michael Coory, Adrienne Gordon, David Ellwood, Harold David McIntyre, Ruth Fretts, Majid Ezzati. Major risk factors for stillbirth in high-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Lancet 2011; 377: 1331–40 DOI:10.1016/S0140- 6736(10)62233-7

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