Total fertility rate may rise as more wed in 2012

SINGAPORE - The total fertility rate (TFR) in Singapore grew for a second consecutive year, and some population experts believe there is scope for it to improve as more people got hitched and the economy is not doing badly.

The TFR last year rose to 1.29 from 1.2 in 2011, according to a population report released yesterday by the National Population and Talent Division. In 2010, the TFR was 1.15. The replacement rate is 2.1.

There were 38,641 resident live births last year - or births with at least one parent who is a Singapore citizen or permanent resident (PR) - the highest in the past 11 years.

But Singapore's population grew at its slowest rate in the past nine years, said the report. In the 12 months leading up to June, the population increased by 1.6 per cent to 5.4 million.

Dr Kang Soon-Hock, head of the Social Science Core at SIM University, was optimistic that the TFR would continue to rise.

"The current increase in TFR has occurred in tandem with an observed increase in the number of marriages," Dr Kang said.

Based on figures from the Department of Statistics, the number of civil and Muslim marriages registered last year was 27,936, a 2.5 per cent increase from 2011. In 2011, there were 27,258 marriages, an 11.9 per cent jump from the previous year.

Dr Mathew Mathews, a research fellow with the Institute of Policy Studies, said: "Economically, we are doing all right these few years. So, couples are more confident about going ahead with their parenthood aspirations."

He said the higher fertility rate last year might be due to the auspiciousness of the Chinese zodiac dragon year, and the usual fall in births following a dragon year might be mitigated by enhancements to the Marriage and Parenthood Package earlier this year.

Dr Tan Ern Ser, from the National University of Singapore's Department of Sociology, said the enhancements will "at least, prevent a decline", if not result in an increase in the fertility rate.

But Dr Tan was not optimistic, because "child-rearing is a long-term commitment, involving good, reliable financial and social support, which no Marriage and Parenthood Package can be expected to fund".

The number of Singaporeans grew by 0.9 per cent to 3.31 million, through citizen births and immigration, the report said. The PR population remained stable at 0.53 million. The growth of non-residents slowed compared to the past year, rising 4 per cent to 1.55 million as of June. Last year, it grew 7.2 per cent from the year before.

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