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Singapore yields highest number of new year babies in decade

Publication Date : 10-02-2013


The Year of the Dragon yielded a bumper crop of 42,600 babies, the highest number born in a decade.

That was a 7.4 per cent spike from the 39,654 born in 2011, and the first time in a decade that Singapore had more than 40,000 births.

Despite the baby boost, there are signs that the effect of the Chinese calendar's most auspicious zodiac sign may be weakening. Last year saw far fewer babies than the previous two Dragon years - 46,997 in 2000 and 52,957 in 1988.

One reason is the declining fertility rate. The other could be that zodiac considerations matter less than before when couples decide to have a baby, said researchers.

Demographer Gavin Jones said that since the number of births rose for all ethnic groups last year, the Dragon year effect could be only one factor.

Last year's ethnic breakdown showed a significant rise in the number of babies categorised as "Others" - Eurasians and foreigners who are not Chinese, Malay or Indian.

This group of "Others" saw the largest proportional increase, overtaking the number of Indian babies and closing in on the number of Malay babies.

The latest figures, published last week by the Department of Statistics, record all births but do not give a breakdown by nationality.

The rise in the number of "Others" babies could reflect the increase in mixed marriages, which include Singaporeans marrying foreigners.

There were 5,388 mixed marriages in 2011, almost double the number a decade earlier, with a sharp rise in citizens marrying foreigners rather than another citizen of a different race.

Sociologist Paulin Straughan said there might have been more babies born to foreign men with Singaporean wives, as well as foreigners.

Singaporean manager Andrea Wu, 35, who is married to senior software developer Tristan Smith, 36, from Britain, gave birth to baby Kai Wen Smith in December. She said the Dragon year did not influence the timing of their baby's arrival.

Teacher Faizal Osman, 34, whose Scottish wife Claire Jaffray, 33, had their second child, Rebecca Aliyah, last year, said: "Any baby born in any year is going to be special. I don't think being in the Year of the Dragon affects how much we feel for our child."

Since 2003, the number of babies born each year has been hovering in the range of 37,000 to under 40,000.

Last year's spike does not signal an uptrend, so sociologists do not have high hopes for the new Year of the Snake. Associate Professor Straughan said that even with the government's recent enhanced incentives to encourage citizens to marry and have babies, any shift in numbers is likely to be modest because citizens are marrying later.

"The underlying constraints are still there. Our main problem is delayed marriage. For major shifts in the total fertility rate and for sustained increase in number of babies born, we have to work hard towards encouraging Singaporeans to get married earlier.

"If the singlehood rates persist, and Singaporeans continue to delay marriage, we will have fewer couples planning for babies," she said.


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