Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why the Swedish way won't work

I refer to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's suggestion in Thursday's report that Singapore emulate Sweden's strategy in improving birth rates ('Taking a leaf from Sweden's book to boost birth rate').

It may not work as Singapore has a very competitive educational environment relative to Sweden. Spending money on creches, giving fathers time off for each childbirth and other Swedish initiatives are not enough in Singapore. The reason our educational environment is so competitive is because parents know that without tertiary education, our kids will not have a good life.

The presence of cheap foreign labour has made low-skilled jobs unrewarding. This is not the case in Sweden. Garbage collectors, bricklayers and carpenters are relatively well paid in Sweden. Thus, even the less skilled in Sweden have a good life. Hence, the urgency on the part of Singapore parents to give their children a tertiary education.

Of course, importing foreign labour has boosted our growth rate. But the price we pay is that it depresses the wages of the lower-skilled workers. That is why Singapore has a high Gini Index compared with Sweden. The index measures the gap between the rich and the poor.

To boost our birth rate, child-rearing should be recognised as a career in itself. Ideally, we want the better-educated women to have more kids. Mothers who stay home tend to have more children than working mums.

I suggest that the Government pay mothers their last-drawn pay for a period of say 10 years after the second child is born, if she chooses to stay at home. If she has more children, the 10-year period restarts after the subsequent children are born. The higher her last drawn pay, the more she is paid.

Second, a portion of her children's future Central Provident Fund payments should be transferred to her after they start working for the rest of her life.

One reason people in the past had more children is that they saw their kids as a source of pension funds for their old age. It's time to restore the old relationship.

Tan Keng Soon - Straits Times Interactive

I think the main reason here is that life in Singapore is very stressful, who wants to bring up a child in a very stressful environment? Its either you make it or you don't. If you don't have a good tertiary education, you're doomed for life.


fupper said...

um, i did a review on this topic too :) do read if ya interested.

starwish said...

Thanks for dropping by, I'll be reading it :)