“So now is as good a time as any for young couples to add a ‘little dragon’ to your family,” said the prime minister who celebrates his birthday on 10 February. Lee was born in the year of Dragon in 1952.
“We will build a ‘Singapore Made for Families’, and continue supporting your marriage and parenthood aspirations,” The Channel News Asia quoted the 72-year-old Lee as saying.
Support for infant caregiving and work-life harmony has been “progressively strengthened” to see parents through their children’s formative years, he said, adding that government-paid paternity leave was recently doubled from two weeks to four weeks on a voluntary basis.
Such measures will “lighten the burden on parents, but they are merely enablers”, said the prime minister.
“Ultimately, couples will decide whether to have children for their own reasons. I hope more will decide to go ahead, and I am confident they will find parenthood a deeply rewarding and fulfilling journey.”
He added that he hoped his encouragement “prompts more couples to try for a baby”, although he acknowledged that “the decision is a very personal one”.
The prime minister also said families should be celebrated as Chinese New Year is celebrated.
“Families are at the heart of our society. Our families give us unwavering strength and support, cheer for us in our triumphs and stand by us through adversity. They are a big part of our sense of identity, belonging and purpose. Through our families, we pass on our aspirations and values from generation to generation,” said Lee.
“One important element of family life is having and bringing up children. It is a great joy for parents to bring kids into this world, and to watch them learn and grow, reaching one milestone after another and growing up year-by-year.
“Grandparents, like me, share this joy too. We dote and fuss over our grandchildren, helping the parents to bring them up and contributing our part in this journey filled with happiness, purpose and love,” he said.
Singaporeans will celebrate Chinese New Year this weekend, February 10-11, and will get an additional holiday on Monday in lieu of the celebration falling on Sunday as it is for all festivals.
The prime minister also noted that fertility rates around the world have been declining, especially in “developed societies” such as Singapore.
Singapore’s resident total fertility rate hit an all-time low of 1.05 in 2022, dipping below the previous record of 1.1 in 2020 and the 2021 figure of 1.12.
The drop “was partly due to the Tiger year in the lunar calendar, which is generally associated with lower births among the Chinese”, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Indranee Rajah had said in Parliament in February 2023.
With every generation having different aspirations, Lee observed that many young people are prioritising career development, spending quality time with their partners and pursuing other interests.
“Even couples who want kids may put off starting families, not realising how quickly it gets harder with each passing year,” he said. “All this is quite understandable. But I still hope that more Singaporean couples will decide to have more children, and to have them earlier!”
“Entering the Dragon year, let us press forward with optimism and determination. I wish all Singaporeans good health, and a very happy Chinese New Year,” he said.