'Accept single mothers and their children'

SINGAPORE - Singapore has about 12,000 abortions a year, due in part to single mothers fearing the social stigma that comes with raising a child in such circumstances.

But had those babies not been aborted because single mothers are more socially accepted here, they would have been able to add to the country's population, argued Professor Chua Beng Huat, a sociologist with the National University of Singapore.

Noting that current legislation places barriers on single mothers, he said yesterday: "Why should they be discriminated against? The rules are stacked against single mothers so badly. Allow them to have all the privileges of a married woman."

He said that parents who believe that the education system here is intense should look at China and South Korea.

"The Government, to be fair, has started sports schools, arts schools, polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education. But, if parents cannot handle the fact that their children are going to be working class, then it's not the Government's problem," he said.

He agreed with Professor Wolfgang Lutz, a European demographer, that Singapore should not be "too fixated" on the replacement total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1. If Singapore works with the rate of 1.5 to 1.7 as suggested by Prof Lutz, it will still be economically healthy, Prof Chua said.

"We don't need to have a population of 6.9 million. We should rethink the idea of (the country's) dependency ratio and, from now until 2050, the status-quo birth rate is okay," he said.

The Government estimated that the dependency ratio of working adults to seniors will fall to 2.1 in 2030, from 5.9 last year.

Prof Chua said the dependency ratio should take into account a longer life expectancy.

He added that current methods to derive population projections, such as using a 2.1 TFR in the Population White Paper, could be less accurate than using a TFR of between 1.5 and 1.7.

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