How We Talk About Having Children Matters

By Ng Jingyang | 21 July, 2017

An edited version of the above, “Influence of family, friends key to couples having more kids”, was sent to Today Voices on 20 July, 2017.

The Marriage and Parenthood Survey has been conducted every three to five years since 2004. Comparing the results for 2012 and 2016, we find that for married Singaporeans, their ideal number of children has not changed over these four years. This is despite the fact that the Government expanded the Marriage and Parenthood Package—a set of financial subsidies and work-life incentives to encourage Singaporeans to marry and have children—in 2013 and again in Jubilee Year 2015.

Although married Singaporeans cited financial cost as a top reason for not having more children in 2012 and 2016, perhaps the greater underlying reason is that having just two to three children is the new social norm for couples today. Furthermore, married Singaporeans indicated that their intended number of children (average of 2.2) is not much lower than their ideal number (average of 2.5). Although financial cost and the stress of raising children are practical challenges that society has to address, they might not be the giant obstacles that we imagine them to be. While measures such as subsidies and flexible work arrangements make it less stressful for couples to raise children, they are unlikely to encourage them to have more than two or three.

Another local research study in the Singapore Policy Journal offers fresh insights into understanding parenthood.1 Young Singaporeans are more likely to want more children when they have encouraging influence from people around them. Their closest family members and friends play the biggest role in terms of providing childcare, expressing support of their parenthood, having positive experiences with raising children, and they have or want children of their own. The study also found that the level of support from the workplace had less impact on people’s intention to have children than we would expect.

Providing financial subsidies and promoting work-life initiatives remain important for relieving Singaporeans from the stresses of parenthood. Besides tackling the actual challenges, our perception of parenthood challenges also needs to change in order to encourage couples to have more children. Policies alone cannot achieve this. With our family and friends, we can start to speak in more supportive tones when we discuss parenthood, the life-changing journey of raising children in Singapore, and all that it brings.

Ng Jingyang
Research Analyst,
Focus on the Family Singapore.



1 Sim, C. S. L. (2014, December 19) Maybe, baby? Empirical investigations on fertility decision-making in Singapore. Singapore Policy Journal. Retrieved from



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