For those with plans to be parents during the pandemic, Singapore is offering a one-time payment to encourage couples to not put those plans into a halt.
Singapore has spent decades to encourage more of its people to have children by offering incentives such as cash grants, preschool subsidies and even going as far as matchmaking tea dances as incentives. According to the deputy prime minister, Heng Swee Keat, officials had earlier heard that parents were delaying their plans due to Covid-19 and it doesn’t come as a surprise to them.
“This is fully understandable, especially when they face uncertainty with their income. Hence, to help with expenses during this period, we will introduce a one-off additional support for new-borns,” he said.
The value of the payment is yet to be announced but it will be added on on top of current benefits that are already worth up to $10,000 Singapore dollars.
Although data shows that fertility is still emerging, many wealthy countries are seeing a fall in birth rates while low and middle-income nations are seeing an increase.
A survey shows that young people across Europe are postponing or abandoning their plans to start a family, especially in countries whose birth rate is already low, such as Spain or Italy.
“People who have the fortune and the economic security and ability to access contraceptives to make that decision [to not have a baby] will do so,” said Dr Clare Wenham, assistant professor in global health policy at London School of Economics, who added that fears about safety and financial security were likely to deter people from having a child.
“The problem is not everyone in the world can choose when they want to get pregnant – either because of gender norms, violence or because of a lack of access to reproductive health service,” she added.
Singapore expects Covid-19 to drop its birth rates, which is already one of the lowest in the world – 1.1 births per woman in 2018.
Other countries in south-east Asia are preparing for a post-pandemic baby boom, such as in the Phillipines who could see the highest numbers of births in two decade due to the country’s strict and enforced lockdown earlier this year.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has predicted as many as 7 million unintended pregnancies worldwide as a result of the crisis, while Maries Stopes International has warned of millions of unsafe abortions globally and a rise in maternal deaths.
Currently, Brazil has the highest rate of post-birth deaths where there is coinfection with Covid-19.
Wenham also says that it might be a range of other things but we just don’t know it yet.