A renewed effort is underway in Singapore to reverse an alarming baby shortage, with the government mulling longer paid maternity leave and a host of other family-friendly incentives to spark a procreation boom. \nThe task took on an added sense of urgency with just-released figures showing the total fertility rate plummeted to an historic low of 1.26 children per woman last year. \nIn absolute terms, it means only 36,000 babies were born that year, well below the 50,000 annual birth the city-state needs to replenish its population of 3.37 million naturally and have enough manpower for economic, defense and other needs. \n"This is a serious problem. A declining birth rate will sap the vitality and resilience of our country," Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in parliament last month. \nBut demographers said changing social mindsets, apart from easing the financial burdens of raising a child, are equally important -- a point acknowledged by the government. \n"We need to shift social attitudes toward having children, even while we recognize that having children is a very personal decision which couples have to make for themselves," said Lee, who will succeed Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in a leadership change coming possibly later this year. \nSince 1987, the government has put in place a slew of financial and tax incentives to encourage couples to have more children than the current average of two. \nA "baby bonus" scheme announced in 2000 gave fresh financial incentives for couples who will have a third child. \nBut demographers said the failure of the financial perks to lift the fertility rate underscores the need for non-monetary measures, such as creating a more friendly environment for working mothers. \n"I think the missing link is about work. It's not about buying babies," Peter McDonald, professor of demography at Canberra's Australian National University, said. \n"Providing financial support to have children is important but the financial loss that [working women] have by having children ... is in financial terms vastly greater than the payment that any government is going to make to them."
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
Former US vice president Joe Biden on Friday said he “should not have been so cavalier” after he told a radio host that African Americans who back US President Donald Trump “ain’t black.” In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted.” “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background.” Biden faced criticism after his comments earlier on Friday on The Breakfast Club, a