The 1972 National Family Planning Campaign with the theme “Plan Wisely for a Small, Healthy and Happy Family” was launched on 20 July by then Minister for Health Chua Sian Chin. In his opening speech, Chua announced that the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board (SFPPB) aimed to encourage the lesser educated and lower income groups to have only two children so as to give these children better opportunities in life. The SFPPB was formed in 1966 to oversee the task of controlling Singapore’s population growth. However, it was only in 1972 that the government strongly advocated a two-child family norm, deviating from the “small family” policy exhorted by previous family planning campaigns.
In the early years of Singapore’s independence, the government was faced with the formidable cost of providing education, health services and housing to a population that was rapidly growing due to the post-war boom. Family planning was thus regarded as a necessary measure for the government to manage issues arising from the development of the national economy and the provision of welfare services to the people. “Stop at Two” was the most notable family planning campaign message adopted by the SFPPB between 1972 and 1987.
For this family planning campaign, the SFPPB intensified its publicity efforts and aimed to change people’s desire to have large families. Compared with previous campaigns that encouraged people to have small families, the 1972 campaign stressed a two-child family norm by adopting a widely publicised “Please Stop At Two” slogan. On 24 October 1972, this message was given substantial force with the introduction of tough new measures to discourage families from having more than two children. The policies, which came into effect on 1 August the following year, included (i) a reduction of income tax relief to cover only the first three children; (ii) an increase in accouchement charges in government hospitals; (iii) a waiver of accouchement and other fees for the fourth child on condition that either the husband or wife underwent sterilisation after delivery of the baby; (iv) a reduction of paid maternity leave from three to two confinements; and (v) a lower priority for larger families on the wait list for Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats. In 1972, an Information, Education and Communications (IEC) Unit was formed to carry out the SFPPB’s publicity efforts throughout the year, instead of limiting publicity work to campaign periods.
Under the efforts by the new IEC Unit, Family Life and Population Education was introduced into the primary school curriculum between 1973 and 1974. The concept of a two-child family as a social norm irrespective of the children’s gender was also promulgated at every opportunity, especially at face-to-face motivation activities and training programmes conducted by the SFPPB. By 1974, the IEC had swung into full momentum with the introduction and distribution of updated publicity materials reflecting the new SFPPB message of having two-child families.The slogan “Girl or Boy, Two is Enough” was coined, and printed on Public Utilities Board (PUB) bills, as well as letters franked by the postal department during the months of August and September 1974.
By 1975, the anti-natalist programme had proven to be a success with the birth rate reduced to 17.7 per 1,000 population, which was below the targeted 18.0 births.The two-child family concept continued to be promulgated, with a picture of two girls used in the campaign posters, in an attempt to counteract the prevalent preference for boys. With the two-child message firmly entrenched, the SFPPB proceeded to focus its efforts on encouraging a wider interval between the two births, and dissuading young people from early marriage and parenthood.
The population control efforts were such a resounding success that by the late 1980s, Singapore’s falling birth rate had become a cause for concern. In 1987, then First Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced a new population policy and a slew of new measures and incentives to encourage Singaporean parents to have three or more children if they could afford to. InAugust 2004, current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong introduced new incentives and financial benefits to address the declining birth rate. Despite these measures and efforts by the government, Singapore’s birth rate has remained low at less than 10 births per 1,000 population and a total fertility rate of 1.19 in 2013.
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10. Singapore Family Planning and Population Board. (1975). Ninth annual report of the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board 1974 (pp. 2, 28, 40, 49). Singapore: Singapore Family Planning & Population Board. Call no.: RCLOS 301.426 SFPPBA.
11. Wong, T., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2003, June). Fertility and the family: An overview of pro-natalist population policies in Singapore (pp. 11 – 12). Asian MetaCentre Research Paper Series (No. 12). Retrieved May 19, 2014, from Asian MetaCentre for Population and Sustainable Development Analysis website http://www.populationasia.org/Publications/ResearchPaper/AMCRP12.pdf
12. John, A. (1987, March 2). Have 3, or more if you can afford it. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from
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14. Statistics Singapore. (2014, May 20). Latest data on births and deaths. Retrieved May 20, 2014, from Singapore Department of Statistics website: http://www.singstat.gov.sg/statistics/latest_data.html#16
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.