SINGAPORE — As of 2018, Singaporean women are choosing to have children at a later age, according to statistics from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), who recently published the Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2018. Coincidentally, the number of babies that were born in Singapore in 2018 is the lowest it has been since 2010.

In 2018, there were 39,039 live births registered in Singapore, a 1.5 percent decrease from 2017 numbers and the lowest recorded since 2010, when 37,967 babies were born.

Graph: ICA/Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2018

The 2018 figure is even less than the number of babies born in 2009 — 39,570. Since 2009, the highest number of births recorded was in 2012, the year of the dragon, at 42,663 births.

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Coinciding with lower birth numbers is Singapore’s fertility rate which, according to Singapore’s Department of Statistics (SingStat), was 1.14 in 2018, a drop from 1.16 in 2017.

The current fertility rate is well below the replacement rate of 2.1, which is a concern for a nation that is facing an ageing population. National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser said the population must be replenished to promote and maintain a vibrant economy that supports the population. Tan noted that we can expect the decreasing trend in birth numbers to continue.

The drop in fertility is directly related to the later age at which Singaporean women are choosing to be mothers for the first time.

The ICA report stated that the median age for first-time mothers in 2018 was 30.6 as compared to 29.7 in 2009.

Resident birth order by period, median age of mother
Graph: ICA/Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2018

The higher median age of first-time mothers reflects the current socio-economic trends of young people choosing to remain single longer, couples getting married later, and women choosing to advance their careers before delving into parenthood, said Associate Professor Kang Soon-Hock of the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

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Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research at NUS, said that there are several factors which couples might be considering before having a baby; besides finances, careers and personal plans, there are uncertainties brought about from being in a digitally and technologically disruptive world, global financial instability and growing concerns about climate change.

In terms of teenage moms, last year’s data also showed that the number of babies born to women aged 19 and below was the lowest in more than a decade — 289 babies in 2018, a 6.8 percent decrease from 2017’s numbers and a large fall from 678 babies born of teenage pregnancies in 2009.

On the other end of the life spectrum, the number of deaths in Singapore has also been increasing. In 2018, there were 21,282 deaths recorded, a 1.8 percent raise from 20,905 in 2017.

The fact that Singapore has an ageing population means that deaths have been on an upward trend since at least 1998, when there were 15,657 deaths recorded.

The report also showed that the median age at death has been gradually lengthening over the years, clocking in at 76.7 in 2018 as compared to 73.9 years old in 2009. This bodes well for Singapore in terms of longevity.

The ICA listed the two most common causes of death in Singapore as “malignant neoplasm”, or cancerous tumours, and heart and hypertensive diseases. These were followed by lung and respiratory system diseases and cerebrovascular diseases.

Unfortunately, the numbers for deaths by unnatural causes have also risen. Deaths by accidents were reported at 436 in 2018, up from 351 in 2017. Alarmingly, suicide rates have also risen, from 361 in 2017 to 397 in 2018.

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Graph: ICA/Report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2018




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