... about raising fertility.
Over at Demography Matters, my friend and occasional co-blogger Randy McDonald brings our attention to the Singaporean government’s preoccupation with below-replacement fertility. They seem quite worried about it, to the point of calling for ever-greater immigration designed to keep up the population at 5.3 million.
The thing is, “seem” is the operative word. Judging from actions, the Singaporean government does not care that its native-born population is going to fall. And it is probably right not to care! But I find it mildly vexing that it makes so much noise while doing so little.
You can find the current natalist policies on page 72 of this population white paper. The highlights:
- 75% of the cost of fertility treatments;
- $4,800 (U.S., at an exchange rate of 80¢ per Singaporean dollar) for the first and second child, rising to $6,400 for the third and beyond;
- A deucedly vague “affordable” rental scheme for people with enough money to buy an condominium but are waiting to move in;
- $480 a month for day care;
- A tax rebate of $4,000 for the first child (doubling to $8,000 for the second and $16,000 for later ones ... but not refundable);
- A cumulative tax deduction for working mothers of 15% of earned income for the first child, 20% for the second, and 25% for the third.
So what does this all come to? Well, the median income in Singapore is $28,800 per year. For a couple with two children, you get a one-time gift of $9,600. Then you get $5,760 for day care ... which drops in half when the child is no longer an infant. (And does not get you much unless day care is much cheaper than in the United States. Unlicensed housefront operations in Queens Licensed home operations in Upper Manhattan cost more than about $480 a month.) Our hypothetical two-income couple has an income tax liability of $2,232 (calculated using this chart from the Singaporean tax authorities) which unless I am greatly misunderstanding means that the value of the subsidy is effectively capped.
Total annual payments for a first child in a two-income family, with both earning the median: a one-time first-year gift of $12,792, followed by $5,112 per year until the child enters school. Life-changing, this is not. And worse yet, if you needed fertility treatments, which most older couples do, you needed to think about the cost. (Israel does it differently.)
This is not serious.
What would be serious? Ah. Well. In 2011, the Singaporean government ran a surplus of $21.3 billion. There were 42,600 births in the country. A fertility rate high enough to replace the population (in fact, a bare tad higher) would imply roughly 70,000 births. $21.3 billion ÷ 70,000 ≈ $300,000 per child.
OK, then: offer $300,000 per child. Tweak as desired. That would be serious policy. Of course, I am not saying that paying a $300,000 child bonus would be good policy.
But it would be affordable. And it would live up to Singapore’s reputation for social engineering! So before they give up and say it cannot be done, they really should at least try. Or stop complaining.