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Singapore's birth rate falls to new low in 2004



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SINGAPORE (AFX) - Singapore's birth rate fell to an all-time low of 1.24 children per woman in 2004, the the Department of Statistics said.

Last year's rate meant only 35,100 babies were born and was worse than the 1.25 registered in 2003, which itself was a record low in the city-state's history, it said.

Singapore needs at least 50,000 babies to be born each year, or a fertility rate of 2.1, to keep stable its native population of 3.4 mln.

The falling birth rate has alarmed the government, which now sees reversing the slide as a top priority and has rolled out financial incentives and other pro-family schemes to encourage Singaporeans to have babies.

Last year, the government dished out 300 mln sgd worth of incentives, including maternity leave and tax relief for new parents, on top of existing measures worth 500 mln sgd a year.

Apart from measures to encourage married Singaporeans to have more babies, the government is also aiming to boost the population by encouraging talented foreigners to take up citizenship.

The government fears a low birth rate will have a long-term economic impact and increase the proportion of elderly citizens relative to those of working age, raising social welfare costs.

Copyright 2005 AFX News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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