Made for Families – Can Singapore Do More?


There have been a select few developed countries and specific towns within that have managed to buck the trend of falling birth rates.

Japan: The “Miracle Town” of Nagi

Somewhere in the work-obsessed industrial powerhouse of Japan lies the small farming town of Nagi, dubbed a “miracle town” for its extraordinary birth rates compared with the rest of the country. It had almost disappeared when in 2002, in the face of an existential threat from dying out, a merger with nearby cities was considered but voted down.

This was a loud enough wake-up call, and Nagi’s constituents and leaders set about employing radical measures to save their town. Among Nagi’s many pro-childbearing incentives include cash handouts for each newborn, sponsored university education for every child, and free healthcare up to the age of 18. Nagi managed to reverse its low birth rate from around 1.4 in 2005 to nearly 2.7 in 2021, when the rest of Japan was registering a flagging 1.3.

Beyond financial incentives, the key seemed to be helping parents understand that they do not have to bring up their children alone. The Nagi Child Home was set up for heavily subsidised babysitting services where other mothers, staff and older volunteers help to care for children for only ¥300 (S$2.75) per hour. The intention is to “take away the anxiety that parents have about finances, or if their child becomes ill. It allows them to balance their family and working lives”.

Parents welcomed the Child Home, saying it allows their children to play with other children, and has staff members on hand to offer various parenting advice. There is a knock-on effect on public mindsets too. Parents who meet other families with three or more children are able to see the benefits of having more kids, and are also encouraged to have big families.

Are such efforts in the small semi-rural town of Nagi scaleable for bigger cities? Japanese politicians seem to think so, judging from how the town earns a modest income from the many Japanese bureaucrats and politicians that have visited to learn from its pro-natal policies.

Cultivate SG
Cultivate SG
Cultivate SG (UEN No. 202231115H) is an organisation dedicated to “cultivating culture together for the common good”.

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