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  • Population, Policies and Programmes in Singapore
  • Evi Nurvidya Arifin, Ph.D
Population, Policies and Programmes in Singapore Author: Saw Swee-Hock Publisher: ISEAS Year: 2005 Pages: 303 ISBN: 981-230-318-9 (soft cover), 981-230-319-7 (hard cover)

This book is a vastly expanded version of the author earlier book published in 1980 by Oxford University Press entitled "Population Control for Zero Growth in Singapore". The book is clearly structured chronologically and divided into two parts: the Antinatalist and Pronatalist Periods. The book consists of 15 chapters with Chapters 2 to 8 reproduced from the earlier version of the book with some revisions. Therefore, for those who have read the earlier book, the second part of the book is worth reading.

Comprehensive discussions and documentation on all aspects of population policies and programmes throughout Singapore's history make this book an indispensable source for those working and having an interest in population dynamics in low fertility countries in general and demographic modernity in particular. A growing concern with very low fertility is occurring in many developed countries and recently in many developing countries.

This book provides an interesting case study for those curious about the public policies and programmes regarding fertility and population growth. Singapore's long-term demographic goal was to stabilize the population at a certain number by fulfilling two conditions: reducing fertility rate to the replacement level and maintaining this level indefinitely. As seen in Figure 1, drawn from the data available in Tables 8.1, 8.9 and 14.2, revolutionary shifts have taken place as a result of antinatalist and pronatalist policies and programmes in Singapore.

The author of the book argues that the comprehensive population control programmes have been responsible for sustaining and accelerating the decline of total fertility rate (TFR) in a very short period. As in many other Southeast Asian countries, the TFR was slightly stable at around 6 to 7 in 1950s. The decline of Singapore's TFR started in 1958 as a result of the establishment of the Family Planning Association on 22 July 1949, a non-profit private body with the primary objective to improve the welfare of the family by providing contraceptive education and services. The Association depended largely on voluntary contributions and manpower for its daily administrative work, management and development. The funds of the association came from various sources with the annual grant from the government constituting a major portion. Other sources were from the annual membership subscriptions, private donations, and funds raised through special fundraising campaigns. [End Page 71]

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Figure 1.

Total Fertility Rate: Singapore, 1947-2003

In its first establishment, three clinics came into operation with the operating hours between 4.30 to 6.00pm. In early 1950, it was felt that the demand for family planning services was sufficiently great to justify the setting up of more clinics. Thereafter, the number of clinics increased substantially. The book indicates that the separation of Singapore from the Federation of Malaysia on 9 August 1965 was then a turning point for this family planning policy, which became the government policy by establishing the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board (SFPPB) on 7 January 1966. The SFPPB programmes were strongly integrated into the work of the Ministry of Health.

In the early phase of the national programme all activities were emphasized on generating public awareness about the population problem and stressing the need for family planning. Therefore, the emphasis widely publicized by 1968 was "Plan Your Family" then shifted to "Singapore Wants Small Families". In the second Five-Year Plan (1970-1975), precisely in 1972, this emphasis gave way to "Two-Child Families for Singapore". Irrespective to the sex of the children, it subsequently changed to "Boy or Girl - Two is Enough". During this Second Plan period, a comprehensive range of effective population policies introduced including the complete liberation of the restrictive laws concerning induced abortion, sterilization and the institutionalization of a series of tough social incentives and disincentives aimed at promoting the two-child family norm. The author discussed in detailed about the policies concerning with induced abortion and sterilization in Chapters 4 and 5...


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