Jul 23, 2008

Human Rights And The Government Baby Incentives – Part 1

In recent weeks, we have seen public discussion on two apparently unrelated topics. The first topic was human rights. AG Walter Woon sparked off that discussion with his controversial comments associating human rights with hypocrisy and fanaticism:
“Noting that human rights is “now a religion among some people”, he said: “You have, like in some religions, the fanatics. And it’s all hypocrisy and fanaticism (for these people) to set the views, as the leading spokesmen, of what is acceptable and what’s not.”
The second topic was about how to get Singaporeans to have more babies. MM Lee Kuan Yew started that discussion when he revealed that (1) the government is planning to introduce new procreation incentives, and (2) we would seek to use countries like Sweden and Norway as our models.

At first glance, these two topics – human rights and childbirth – seem quite separate. After all, aren’t human rights just all that silly nonsense spouted by Chee Soon Juan and other clowns? As for babies, well, that’s a serious matter, for babies are our economic defence against the perils of a rapidly aging population. Right?

Here’s a curious point which the Singapore government has missed (or has chosen to be silent about). On the procreation issue, we now seek to use the Nordic countries as our model. But we haven’t realized that their parenthood policies are actually quite significantly influenced by human rights considerations. And this is quite true of European countries in general.

How so? Well, for example, let’s look at a rather well-known human rights treaty - the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, for short). The treaty tackles a range of issues relating to women, including pregnancy, motherhood, maternity leave, childcare support, and the involvement of fathers in raising children. Article 11 says:
2. In order to prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage or maternity and to ensure their effective right to work, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:

(a) To prohibit, subject to the imposition of sanctions, dismissal on the grounds of pregnancy or of maternity leave and discrimination in dismissals on the basis of marital status;

(b) To introduce maternity leave with pay or with comparable social benefits without loss of former employment, seniority or social allowances;

(c) To encourage the provision of the necessary supporting social services to enable parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through promoting the establishment and development of a network of child-care facilities ....
Now if you are a country which takes human rights seriously, the fact that you are also a party to CEDAW will inevitably influence your national policies. CEDAW will lead you, as a state, to focus on the welfare of the mother, and the welfare of the child, and even the welfare of the father. And you will incline towards the view that just by the fact that a family is a family, there are certain rights its members ought to have. After all, they’re human.

However, if you are a country which likes to say “Oh, human rights are just an invention of the West; me, I’m Asian, and I’ll have nothing to do with those hypocritical human rights fanatics," then the fact that you’re a party to CEDAW doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

You may still want to support procreation, but the motivations are different. For example, the Singapore government seeks to promote higher baby production, but its motivations are purely economic; the aim is to generate a steady stream of future workers for Singapore Inc..

Then the conundrum becomes this. Babies are economically useless. This is undeniable. They can’t type; they don’t wash dishes; and for a long, long time, they definitely won’t be doing any life sciences research in a R&D laboratory. In fact, babies are very much like Temasek’s investment in Shin Corp or Merrill Lynch. One day, they might generate good returns, but that will have to be in the very, very distant future. Meanwhile, they are just a huge, constant and bleeding economic loss.

This is not an obstacle, if you view babies and parents as humans, and by virtue of being human, automatically having human rights (like those under CEDAW). But what happens if you view babies merely as future economic units, and women merely as economic-unit-producing machines? The question then becomes – do you, as a government, really dare to bite the bullet? And put your money and political will into this very long-term, risky investment?

So far, the government has failed. From the time that "Two is Enough" gave way to "Have Three If You Can Afford it", the government has never succeeded.

[To Be Continued]

44 comments:

Mr Wang Says So said...

One week left to vote! If you have enjoyed reading this post, please vote for Mr Wang in the Singapore Blog Awards. (I'm represented by the picture of the grey cat).

Anonymous said...

Once again Mr Wang you have given food for thought. At a fundamental level, the question of whether to stop at one, two three and so forth have to do with the way a country conceives (pardon the pun) of its citizens. If citizens have no basic rights and are merely digits in the grandiose plan of the government (like the "citizens" who built the Great Wall of China) then it really matters little how many children a couple should have. Too many, stop at two. Too little, here have a handout otherwise I recruit "foreign talents". At the bottom, the government has little or no idea of what citizens are, what part they play in the nation and what their value should be.That is why, it is not just human rights that are linked to the debate about babies but also emigration (a topic I notice you have touched on). Let us say that we forget about human rights.What about the rights of citizens? Citizens have responsibilities towards the country. What about the country and the government? Does the government have any idea of the rights of its citizens (context, pretext or subtext - choose one, never mind)? Let's not have the old cliches about a roof over one's head. These cliches are the very least a citizen can expect otherwise why pay so much money for a minister? Somewhere along the way, Singapore lost track of the ideals of nationhood and citizenship that its founding generation among them Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam and Toh Chin Chye articulated.

James said...

I believe, w/o prejudice, that in the 1st place, a local Prof Saw Swee Hock was consulted on population control. Subsequently in the 80s, the same Prof advised the govt that the stop at 2 policy was too successful with severe implications for the country. This is what I hv been given to understand. Just look at China's 1 child policy.

My point is a.) there has been too much social engineering (talk abt human rights) and b.) there is too little too late of any follow through to monitor and manage successfully policies' effects and side effects. Take streaming for instance, compounded by ranking. It's a lousy thing-game to do, for whose glory? When handouts were given, the mentality became one of really asking for handouts.

All these are far too late to change. It may be that if the country is still around, the next generation of singaporeans are really the ones from FTs now.

James said...

Mr Wang
Pls take my advice w/o offence. On the matter of Singapore Blog Awards, pls do not keep asking for votes. You don't need it. Ppl know you or about you, so you have been appreciated, even by NLB.

Best of all, it should be overseas recognition since local is hardly serious. Best to remain as anonymous as possible.

Awards have their attendant price to pay, especially the local ones, I think. Pardon me but it is your prerogative anyway. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Our Gahmen knows the causes of the problem but is too proud to admit it.

How can she make mistakes after mistakes!! No way because she is always RIGHT but U common peasants who unfortunately form the majority lack helicopter vision.

Mr Wang Says So said...

"I believe, w/o prejudice, that in the 1st place, a local Prof Saw Swee Hock was consulted on population control."

Heheh, small world. I know Saw Swee Hock's daughter, she used to be my boss actually, AND she is a regular reader of this blog.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha to quote Mr Wang,

"In fact, babies are very much like Temasek’s investment in Shin Corp or Merrill Lynch".

Pretty scary isn't it, if it is solely in economic terms. No individual will want to invest their money the way Temasek do, expecting returns in 20 or 30 years time. However they view babies differently. They even consider them as a great gift and are proud and happy parents when the baby is born. Maybe Temasek think those investments are just like babies and should use the baby analogy to convince people. Hahaha!

James said...

Pride comes before a fall ... when one cannot be honest and human enough to admit. Talk abt not hving balls!!! CMI - Cannot Make It ;)

Anonymous said...

Bingo Mr Wang! The Gahmen should not discriminate against women's marital status either. Currently single women not covered by the Employment Act do not get maternity leave.

All the goodies the Gahmen is giving away only apply to the Marrieds.

Anonymous said...

considering that a pretty sizable number of couples have problems conceiving, nothing is being done for them.
instead of just trying to make people who dont want children have them, why not help those ho are trying hard?

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty clear that any talk about Nordic countries being used to serve as a model for Singapore is likely to be pure lip service. Norway is the antithesis of the Republic of Singapore. It has a Sovereign Investment fund that is among the most open among the majors, while Singapore's is usually among the most secretive (though apparently opening up a bit). As you say, human rights is a value so deeply embedded in their political discourse, it even informs their debate on family planning. SG government has a tendency to take a Western model and turn it on its head. Example: an adaptation of the English Common Law system, but one without a jury of the defendant's peers. Chances are, if anything is taken from Scandinavia, it would be transformed in a pretty gruesome manner...

Anonymous said...

Points well put across. The group of ministers are no doubt smart people but without human touch. Everything they do is dollars and cents to their benefits. Ya, ya, ya. It is for the future for our own good. They have not noticed that the "mindless peasants" have started developing a mind of their own to ponder if this is indeed the best for them. It is scary that whenever they offer some goodies, they take back more. Look at the great GST revenue projection error. The GST payout is not even close to the tax grab. It is honestly big mistake. Lets move on?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, very interesting post! I agree this is very enlightening perspective.

I don't know why james said what he said, but there's nothing wrong about asking readers to vote. Some people need to be reminded, like me. I think it's nice to win a laptop, after all you've been sharing very interesting articles for a long time and this IS a form of recognition. I don't see why local recognition a lesser form than overseas too. And, most of us know who's Mr Wang, he's not anonymous.

james probably doesn't need any year end bonus or pay increment as recognition for doing a good job. His boss only needs to get many people to praise him, that's all the recognition he needs.

Anonymous said...

SPOT ON, good sir!

HH said...

Babies are not economically useless and I guess our gahment know about it.

They make their parents spend on their Baby Gaps, their $100 an hour swimming lesson, piano lesson, speech lesson.....

Then when they go to school their parents have to buy them a laptop and mobile phone.

Geez... no wonder the men in white want us to have more kids.

Anonymous said...

Much of what i want to say has been commented by the others, so i will not repeat. I hv been encouraging my kids to keep the option of migrating when they hit their early 20s. So it does not matter how many kids you hv if young adults hv a parent like me. If the system does not let you feel wanted, you want out. It is as simple as that.

James said...

To anon Jul 24 12:20am
I do not noe abt the laptop. It's the award I was talking abt, not the (physical) reward.

It is also not abt recognition from other people n again, like the laptop, it is not abt the year end bonus (as u referred to me, and there are many other lower paid people who need their bonus more than me, relatively speaking).

Broadly, I have said elsewhere here that (in case u dun understand or agree with my perspective and it's ok) it is far more important that one develops or acquires other skills of getting rewards without so much as depending on the organization or people specifically.

If I am not wrong, there are many places where no matter how good you are, your career depends on what your boss writes on you. If not this, then there are many places where your boss gains from how good you are.

If you understand the whole context of living and working in Singapore and getting affected by national policies that affect people through 'resource allocation', you might know what I mean - that independence for the individual is the key, at any place anyway (e.g. not every American supports what Bush is doing or what Wall St is doing).

Hence dun count the boss or mgmt as been all enlightening or all caring. The idea of expecting bonus or recognition/praise from outside of yourself is perhaps not necessary or sufficient in this context. It is better to presume that only you are accountable for yrself and yr familiy. Do not expect the 'outside' to do that; safer to presume that the 'outside' dun care, and they dun need reminding that they shd care.

Hence I wasn't intending to insult Mr Wang nor your good self.

Since you said you didn't know my original rationale and motivation, I hope this clarifies because the purpose and goal must be clear from since young - everyone only has one life i.e. a fixed no of days that we do not know in advance. If one cannot take care of himself, how can he take care of others; worst, others may take care of him. What is good for one shd be good for the organization, but what is good for the organization may not be good for one. Btw, how do I address you?

Anonymous said...

I believe the 'two is enough' campaign years ago already had certain discrimination against parents who wanted more children eg school regstration prorities.

Anonymous said...

George says:

It's a Freudian slip when LKY said that the world wants to do us in. To my mind the 'us' referred to is the ruling party, and in particular LKY himself. He knows he had opened his mouth too often to defame and to offend others overseas for far too often for far too long. So he had a guilt complex, and in his own narrow mentality, he will always assume that many have an axe to grind with him and his party. That prompted his remarks. Nowadays, he blurted out anything that comes to his mind without circumspection or prior thinking as he really no longer cares about how people would react to his words, partly because his brainpower has been degenerating with age and the stress from all these years of scheming.

You are right, we are no more than mere digits to the Singapore govt. Same reason why it so easily and readily let in millions of foreigners to often subvert the rice bowls of many Singaporeans. They only see what they want to achieve for themselves, it's not for the country or people but themselves. And its attitude to the people is - take it or leave it.

Anonymous said...

Just want to comment that I agree with what George July 24, 2008 12:33 PM said, esp his last paragraph. "They" refers to the MIW bootlickers sucking up to 1 old man for the legalised "anti-corruption" pay.

I do not intend have any children while in Singapore, but hope to have 4 after I migrate to a real 1st world country.

porcorosso said...

When the policy decision was made about 12 years ago to bring in maids, largely from neighbouring countries, to provide care for the very young and the very old, we lost out on the opportunity to develop Scandinavian style child care and care for the aged. This was justified at the time on the basis that the burden on Government spending would be relieved or at least shifted to people willing to pay for such services ie. working mothers. Now we have children speaking with Filipino accents and maids throwing grandmothers out of windows of HDB flats. There is a cost to the Scandinavian model and it is borne more or less equally by all taxpayers whether you have children, aged parents or not as the case may be. The issue is really whether we want, as a society, to support working mothers or not - I think we know what we have chosen.

James said...

I always tell ppl that the national pledge was the inspiration of S Rajaratnam.

If I am not wrong, the PAP logo bears some resemblance to a fascist party in UK. This point was raised by a IHT journalist who interviewed LKY. For all the brilliance and force of the man's personality .....

Anonymous said...

We will be copying XXX's policy ... because thats all we ever do. Plus helping couples who have difficulty having babies doesn't sound as sexy and do not justify bonus.

No doubt the final solution will be one that sounds good on paper(backed by X years of study and research) and pushes as much cost as possible to ... the parents.

NoName

Onlooker said...

You see the problem is those in charge were "NEVER WRONG" in policy making.
Even when the mistake is so glaring and everyone knows that it is a mistake(or negligence).
They will never acknowledge their shortcomings and still claims that other countries are learning from us. (even the torch skip us so much respect for our system and the Indon telcom deal go to Russia( incidentally the place with the best programmers)) or find scapegoats.
At the end of the day it is how they define meritocracy:-
Book smart (in theory) || family member = good thinker/ policy administrator.
But "How come most of the successful boss base in other countries are not the valedictorian or creme of the crop?"
Therefore academic success != professional || business success.
eg:- Bill Gates(dropout), Sim Wong Foo(diploma), Warren Buffet.
it is only a factor || requisite not the end all requirement.
Our policy maker lack the drive to make (realistic and useful) thing happen. the obvious lack of motivation to oppose a policy/ proposal if they foresee problems that could arise.
Having only 2 and some nmp does not allow a better policy.
For that reason alone we need more people who will ask relevant question in parliament.
It's a bit like having the programmer and tester to be in the same cliche aka kaki aka groupie. That will make bugs in the system harder to find and corrected.
And when the thing crash, finger will point and head will roll (esp the scapegoats not in the cliche group).

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang i read your blog regularly, but me vote for Sgpolitics liao.. so sorrie la hehe~

At this moment i am afraid Sg and my parents will not have any babies from me. Of cos i have siblings so my parents no need to worry about their lineage ending haha. Dun get me wrong i am not gay. Besides have no gf at the moment. i just dun wish to see my kids next time have this kind of life. & if i have a son no way i want him to go thru NS. ccb one la, knn just cannot stand the pap gahmen! living in Sg is like being held hostage bcos they control everything & u cannot escape their blardy faces & shit they say!

i love my country, but it is being screwed up by a small group of ppl. My classmate from china once asked me "why Sgians look so unhappy? are they afraid of something?" Fuck man, a commie foreigner less than 1 month here can already sense it, so enough said. gahmen so stupid think those so-called foreigners will stay in Sg meh? True talents wont stay & will just use us as a stepping stone, only the 3rd and 4th rate ones with no better place to go will stay.

Recruit ong

Anonymous said...

Weren't the Nordic countries slammed by this man for having second rate governments (and therefore not worthy or world class salaries) not too long ago?

Anonymous said...

A minor digression but why no "We're Asian and have Asian values and therefore what they do cannot apply to us" when it comes to policies encouraging childbirth? I would argue that individual attitudes towards child birth are even more culture-mediated than say, the need for political expression.

James said...

sad .... our Temasek apparently dump 'some' shares in M 'Lynch' .. singaporeans will hv to work other ...

http://www.littlespeck.com/content/economy/CTrendsEconomy-080724.htm

James said...

apologies on the Temasek-Merril Lynch news:
http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSSGC00214820080725

nothing has changed ;)

Anonymous said...

How come suddenly talk about babies again. FT policy not working?

Like tikam tikam.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Actually the current influx of foreigners of working age merely increases our need for babies.

This is because some percentage of the foreigners who are of working age today will inevitably become PRs and citizens. Then in the next 15 to 25 years, they will become part of our aging population.

In other words, the aging population problem is not a problem NOW, it is a problem of the future, and actually, the more foreigners we absorb now, the larger our future problem becomes.

James said...

"This is because some percentage of the foreigners who are of working age today will inevitably become PRs and citizens. Then in the next 15 to 25 years, they will become part of our aging population."

Agreed. Population growth is different from 'renewal' growth. FT import is just a short term measure to both lower costs n increase skill base. These can be correlated back to the basic problems caused within the country in the last 2 decades.

E.g. streaming system means that from a generational feedback loop viewpoint, we have at least 2 generations of 'products' entering the workforce and we can already know the quality. Nothing from people in general from their formative years - just that we over stratified and level down overall: the good are really good but few, but the mediocre are really undeveloped and are in the vast majority. Getting 7As is so different from getting 2As in the way past.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Wang, this is off topic. I noticed you changed your comments page to a popup. I actually prefer the old template, where the comments page is a page on its own. Reasons being - (1) popups are very irritating (2) the popup window is very small - I can't read a lot of comments in an instance, need to scroll a lot. (3) the old comments template is just easier on the eye.

Hope you change it back. Heh heh.

Glass Castle said...

Excellent post Mr. Wang, I look forward to seeing the next installment. I have posted in response at Glass Castle as well.

- Jolene (http://www.glass-castle.org)

Anonymous said...

Ali says -

The incentives are long overdue. Much more can be given especially to the poor. My wife left me then because I wasn't able to adequately provide for our three children then. Raising children is not cheap. My current home-maker wife is expecting our second child and any free help is most welcome considering we are an affluent country dependent on human resource.

Anonymous said...

Having visited the Nordic countries, I must say that unless the whole system in Singapore undergoes a huge overhaul, no policies can be imported fromthere. Their models are totally opposite of that of Singapore Inc. People in Scandinavia chose to pay higher taxes for very generous social security benefits. Note that THEY chose it, not the authorities. They might discuss critically their systems, but no sane Swede, Dane or Norwegian will ever trade what they have for something that benefits only the top percentile of the society and produces a Gini index on par with Honduras or Peru. No way a family can go to the dogs there if the only breadwinner gets critically ill or a child gets diagnosed with cancer. They are very confident about their future, and that's the reason they can have three or even four children. Free childcare, generous health benefits, paid maternity and (wow!) paternity leaves and a great educational system where no one has to rely on private tutors don't harm either. Their average standard of living is way higher than in Singapore, high taxes notwithstanding. And they don't have to live under constant stress.

Mockingbird said...

the gahmen did succeed in getting people to stop at 2 in the late 70s and early 80s.

But it sure is hard now to get people to make more babies with all the rigours and demands of modern life in Sikieland.

Mockingbird said...

Will Singapore gahmen adopt drastic measures like Sweden to encourage people to make more babies? Extremely highly unlikely. No matter how desperate they may be. Afterall, it's much easier to attract foreign immigrants to make up for the numbers.

Anonymous said...

I am a civil servant expecting my fourth child. The current goodies stop at the 4th. My husband and I won't mind having another if more paid leave or monenery incentives can be given to us clerical officers in the civil service.

Mdm Siti

Anon at July 24, 2008 2:24 PM said...

Anon at July 27, 2008 6:26 AM: "No way a family can go to the dogs there if the only breadwinner gets critically ill or a child gets diagnosed with cancer. They are very confident about their future, and that's the reason they can have three or even four children.... Their average standard of living is way higher than in Singapore, high taxes notwithstanding. And they don't have to live under constant stress".

Yup, that's why I hope to have 4 children after I migrate, but ZERO for sinkapore. The prospects here are unlikely to improve when an old man clings on to power and dictates policies that are irrelevant to the current realities and benefit only a small group of bootlickers.

Guess who they tasked for this child-boosting job? That can't sing, can't admit mistake, can't resign chap.

Anonymous said...

Sad, having babies is no longer about wanting them because you would love to have them but has degenerated into a bargaining tool for more leave, money, etc.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang! We are eagerly awaiting part 2. Hehe.

Anonymous said...

During drought or famine, animals stop procreation.

Fear has been so oft used as a justificator / motivator in SG by you know who, that it has become ingrained in the psyche.

That is not to say that the present generation is lacking materially as compared to past generations.

It is to say that the present generation does a situational analysis and comes up with "Shit! Cost of living inflation, salary stagnation, transportation increment, what is the conclusion?" I'm never gonna be able to retire.

The siege mentality, used once too often, becomes perma-siege. Not a comfortable state of being.

Anonymous said...

During the late 1960s, LKY fearing that Singapore's then high birth rate might overburden the developing economy & started a vigorous 'Stop-at-Two' family planning campaign. Couples were urged to undergo sterilization after their second child. Third or fourth child were given lower priorities in maternity hospitalization access, education & childcare.
Families that desired more than 2 children were subjected to harsh punitive & economic disincentives like forced sterilization, no medical or hospital subsidies & no childcare subsidies for their children. It was a no-brainer that Spore govt had caused a 'fertili-cide' on a grand scale on the birth rate.
In 1980, a census conducted had revealed that a large proportion of highly educated but unmarried women who were over 40 years old.
The same census also noted an inverse relation between educational level and the number of children conceived. Dr Tony Tan – then Minister of Finance and Trade & Industry – attributed to 2 factors: firstly, the preference of local men to marry "downwards" ie. to women with a lower educational qualifications; & secondly, the preference of women graduates to marry "equally or upwards" ie. to men who either better educated or the same level.
How did Dr Tony Tan interpreted the census findings left many questions? It would seem an oversimplification of the procreation process as well as the human relationship process.
In 1983, then PM LKY sparked the 'Great Marriage Debate' in an NDP rally speech. He was concerned that a large number of graduate women remain unmarried. He feared that the growing phenomenon would result in a projected loss of about 400 unconceived babies from this gene pool each year. LKY was worried that the dearth of graduate women conceiving would lead to the faltering of the economy and ultimately a decline in society. This is LKY's and the PAP-led govt way of governing Spore - a cold, hard & rationale vision of society. LKY's procreation issues are of an economic nature rather than a social one. Just as the "Stop-at-Two" policy was aimed to prevent the then high birth rate from over- burdening the developing economy; the "Graduate Mother Scheme" was made on the unproven genetic basis that talent was not so much nurtured but conceived. LKY feared that there were not enough 'smart' babies conceived whereas 'unintelligent' ones were being freely conceived which would affect Spore's future economic growth & cause societal decline. His was a radical view.
The Social Development Unit(SDU), a govt-funded match-making agency was established for graduates. In addition incentives, such as tax rebates, schooling, and housing priorities for graduate mothers who had three or four children, in a partial reversal of the 'Stop-at-Two' family planning campaign. The Spore govt justified this elitist approach as they had identified graduates as a group which required govt assistance in terms of finding life-long partners for procreation. Non-graduates according to the govt, did not seem to have any difficulty in getting married & procreating.
Understandably, all segments of the Public were unhappy; graduate women were deeply embarrassed when their social plight were highlighted by the govt, non-graduate women were upset at the govt for dis-incentivising graduate men from marrying them. There was public outcry at the use of taxpayers’ money to subsidize leisure activities for graduates, especially since graduates already had a higher average income.
Between 1983 & 2003, the SDU claimed that over 33,000 members married each other. Despite these successes; it was not mirrored at the national level as there was an insignificant increase in marriages from 22,561 in 2000 to 22,992 in 2005. Over that same period, singlehood increased significantly and remained stubbornly high as more people were choosing to delay marriage including graduates; individual singles between age 30-34, 37% (males) & 26% (females); and between age 40-44, 15%-17% for males and females collectively.
By the late-90s, birth rates had fallen so low that then-PM Goh Chok Tong had to extend these incentives to all married women, and gave even more incentives, such as the 'baby bonus' scheme introduced in 2001(and enhanced in August 2004). However, these incentives paled in comparison to other developed countries such as Australia. The incentives by Spore govt were 'non-cash' in nature ie. tax deductibles. In Australia, cash payments (called Family Assistance Tax Benefit) are paid fortnightly by Centerlink to parents to defray the cost of raising their child.
Only in terms of one-off baby bonus are Spore & Australia comparable: Spore: $3,000 (1st/2nd child) $6,000 (3rd/4th); Australia (as at July 2008): A$5,000 /S$6,500 (A$1:S$1.30) per baby.
The Australian baby bonus introduced in 2004 resulted in a baby boom. Whereas Spore baby bonus effect seemed muted largely because although the long standing fertility controls (though phased out but the economics of raising a baby remained) plus the significant proportion of ageing singles have severely blunted the fertility rate. Spore's current fertility rate was now only 1.26 children per woman, the 3rd lowest in the world and well below the 2.10 replacement point. 38,317 babies were born in 2006, compared to around 37,600 in 2005. That number, however, is still insufficient to maintain the population's growth. Although, Spore's total population growth in 2006 was 4.4% with Singapore residents growth at 1.8%. The higher percentage growth rate is largely from net immigration, but also from increasing life expectancy. It is a demographer's nightmare; increasing foreign immigrants fraying the social cohesion & increasing tension; an ageing population straining on the healthcare & medical system.
The problem with population control measures using economic means - it can worked too well. Although fertility controls have since been lifted but the emotional effects have been irreversible. Having a child today requires considerable planning; gynecologist/maternity ward; hospital deposit/adequate medisave funds; post-natal care; preschool childcare (for working mothers), good home address (for enrolling in elite schools), etc. The high economic cost of living in Spore emerged to be a natural fertility barrier. The economic growth at all cost attitude by Spore govt have destroyed the innate desire to procreate - why bring someone into this world when you can't even guarantee a decent upbringing, access to a good education and a bright working future.
Govts should not try to interfere with the human procreation process & attempt to social engineer an ideal population. The last significant person to try to social engineer the population was Adolph Hitler!