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10/23/2006

my new paper article is here

Below is my original article for The New Paper. The emphasis was slightly different. The main drift is that a couple with a $2000 monthly income, net $1,600 after CPF, cannot afford to have children. The cost is just too much for them to bear. The latest case on the MRT jumper, Tan Jee Suan, vindicated what I was driving at. With two school going kids, and a less than $2000 income, they are dead meat. Many Singaporeans are in this trap, unfortunately still in blissful ignorance of the road ahead. They are going to bring a lot of pain to themselves and their innocent children. The children will be deprived no matter how much love and care the parents can give. They will have to depend on charity to get by. Can you afford to have children? The older generation used to have ten or a dozen children running around. And the children still grew up like any children would. Some even made it to be successful entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors and even Prime Ministers. Is this a formula to emulate for the new generation when there is a dearth of babies? Some say so. Go, go forth and multiply. It is nonsensical to think that the affluent new generation cannot afford to bring up half a dozen children when their poor parents could handle twice that amount. What were the motivations for the earlier generation to do what the present generation think is irresponsible or a thoughtless thing to do? With their lack of education or ignorance, clueless may be a better word, they did what they did the nature’s way. Many just did not know what they were in for or just did not bother. Tomorrow was not their problem. The children, they would grow up and that’s the way things were then. Some were thoughtless, that is for sure. Then some were very thoughtful. They were planning for their retirement. They needed someone to take care of them when they were no longer able to. What better ways than scores of children to ensure that at least one would make it, like tikam tikam. There are of course many other reasons for having or not having babies. The considerations today are more practical. For discussion purposes I will treat this from a single dimension perspective, the issue of affordability. How much? That is the key question. Figures of $277,000 or $400,000 have been quoted to bring up a baby to a graduate adult. Maybe these figures were just too comfortable. Go for the bare minimum, say a ball park figure of $150,000 for 25 years to include all expenses, food, clothing, allowance, tuition, medical etc. The four years in a local university could easily cost $50,000 with $24,000 going to tuition fees alone. Forget about overseas education. Ok, I agree that some can get by with just TLC and fresh air. For simplicity, divide this sum into 3 distinct phases, pre natal and birth to 12 years old, 13 to 21(including NS) and 4 years in university, with $50,000 each. This works out to an average of $300, $400 and $500 per month for the respective phases. Now who can afford this kind of money? Any couple thinking of having a child must be able to fork out $150,000 or a multiple of that for more children. Assuming a couple needs about $1,600 nett income a month, or $2,000 before CPF deduction, to live decently, they will need another $300 to $500 for a child. Simply put, if the family’s take home pay is less than $1,600, they cannot afford a child. Unless they are prepared to bring up a child who is always envious of the normal things that other children have. Isn’t that mean? And to be content with a life depending on charities, handouts, grants, or applying for subsidies all the time. What kind of existence is that? A child is meant to be a bundle of joy and not a burden of 25 years? And the thought of having more than one, 4 or 5, is honestly, thoughtless and totally irresponsible for those earning less than $2,000. Shall we encourage couples with less than $1,600 take home income to have children? Or shall we say ‘Go forth and multiply, Mr Rich!’ Let’s not burden the poor unnecessarily by asking them to bring more financial problems to themselves and a pathetic life for their children, unless help is provided in a dignified manner.

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