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Monday, 21 August, 2000, 07:17 GMT 08:17 UK
Singapore couples paid for babies
Baby
Singapore's birth rate is falling fast
Singapore has announced it will give cash bonuses to parents who have more than one child in an attempt to reverse falling birth rates.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said the allowances would be paid to couples having a second or third baby starting from April next year.

Baby
The basic bonus for a third child will be S$1000
Singapore's population is set to shrink from 3.2 million to 2.7 million in the next 50 years - a situation that could damage the economic prosperity of one of the world's richest countries.

Under the new scheme the government will open a special bank account for couples who have a second or third offspring and will make annual payments until the child is six years old.

For a second child, it will contribute 500 Singapore dollars ($291) a year and up to another 1,000 dollars ($582) to match contributions from the parents.


Three times as many families are childless [as in 1989] - twice as many have only one child

Prime Minister Goh
The bonuses will be doubled for a third child.

Mothers having three children will also be allowed to take maternity leave - a benefit only currently available when a first or second child is born.

The government will pay as much as US$11,765 to replace lost income during the eight-week leave, Mr Goh said.

Eugenics

Singapore's fertility rate, which has been declining for many years, is currently 1.48. A fertility rate of 2.1 is needed for a population to replace itself.

This is not the first time Singapore's leaders have asked citizens to go forth and multiply for the good of the nation.

In the early 1980s the then prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, said it was the duty of every Singaporean to do their bit.

And in remarks that smacked of eugenics, he said it was important the well educated had as many babies as the less educated to maintain economic standards.

Prime Minister Goh has shied away from such controversial language, but has nonetheless made it clear the island's population is shrinking to unacceptable levels.

Immigration

Apart from offering parents cash incentives, Mr Goh said Singapore should also encourage more immigration.

He said importing foreign talent had been crucial to the economic success of the US, a country Singapore could learn a lot from.

Mr Goh was speaking at the end of celebrations marking the anniversary of Singapore's independence from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965.

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21 Mar 00 | World
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