More people in Singapore are postponing marriage, Indranee noted, adding that more couples are also delaying having children or having fewer children.
This is in line with longer-term global societal trends. It also comes as people in Singapore are living longer.
The resident life expectancy at birth has risen to more than 83 years today, up from 72 years in 1980. Around one in four Singapore citizens will be aged 65 and above by 2030.
Singapore will find it “increasingly challenging” to sustain economic growth as the resident workforce increases at a slower rate, Indranee said.
As family sizes shrink, caregiving needs will also intensify.
“More Singaporeans will face the dual pressures of raising young children while caring for their elderly parents – and in fact, this is already happening,” she said.
While most Singaporeans understand why we need immigrants, there are, understandably, concerns over competition for jobs and other resources
Indranee said there has been feedback about difficulties in getting access to reliable infant care.
“We will be reviewing how we can better support new parents in caring for their infants,” she said.
Laying out the measures announced in the latest budget to boost support for parents and families, Indranee noted that government-paid paternity leave for eligible working fathers will be doubled to four weeks for children born from January 1 next year, and companies are encouraged to offer flexible work arrangements.
Among those applying for build-to order flats, first-time buyers with children and younger married couples will get greater priority, including an additional ballot chance.
Housing grants for families buying resale flats for the first time will increase by up to S$30,000 (US$22,400) as well, which the national development ministry will elaborate on at its committee of supply debate.
The government has also increased the Baby Bonus cash gift for new parents by S$3,000 and will contribute more to the Child Development Account, a savings scheme for children.
Welcoming immigrants to Singapore plays an important part in moderating the impact of an ageing population and low birth rates, said Indranee, who is also second minister for finance and national development.
“While most Singaporeans understand why we need immigrants, there are, understandably, concerns over competition for jobs and other resources, and how the texture and character of our society could change, and whether our infrastructure can keep up,” she said.
“Since the tightening of our immigration framework in late 2009, we have maintained a measured and stable pace of immigration.”
Last year, Singapore granted about 23,100 new citizenships, including around 1,300 to children born overseas to Singaporean parents. Around 34,500 new permanent residencies were granted.
“The numbers of new citizenships and PRs granted in 2022 were slightly higher than pre-Covid,” Indranee said. In 2019, Singapore granted 22,714 citizenships and 32,915 permanent residencies.
Some approved applicants in 2020 and 2021 had not completed the in-person processes, which were slowed down because of pandemic-related travel restrictions and safe management measures.
Others could not apply because they were not able to complete the necessary processes to submit the application. “Hence, some of these applications were rolled over into 2022,” she explained.
Indranee added that Singapore considers a “comprehensive set of factors” when granting citizenship or PR status, including the applicant’s family ties to Singaporeans, economic contributions, qualifications, family profile, age and how long they have stayed in the country.
“This ensures that new immigrants are rooted, able to integrate and contribute meaningfully here,” she said, adding that new adult citizens come from within the pool of PRs.
This article was first published on CNA