Chinese New Year is always a festive occasion. We gather tonight with our loved ones to welcome new beginnings and usher in good luck for the year ahead. It is also an opportunity for those living abroad to return home and reunite with loved ones. Our homes come alive with laughter and chatter as relatives visit, and children play enthusiastically with their cousins.
As we celebrate Chinese New Year, let us also celebrate our families. Families are at the heart of our society. Our families give us unwavering strength and support, cheer for us in our triumphs, and stand by us through adversity. They are a big part of our sense of identity, belonging, and purpose. Through our families, we pass on our aspirations and values from generation to generation.
One important element of family life is having and bringing up children. It is a great joy for parents to bring kids into this world, and to watch them learn and grow, reaching one milestone after another and growing up year by year. Grandparents, like me, share this joy too. We dote and fuss over our grandchildren, helping the parents to bring them up and contributing our part in this journey filled with happiness, purpose, and love.
Many Chinese families consider a child born in the year of the dragon to be especially auspicious, the dragon being a symbol of power, strength, and good fortune. So now is as good a time as any for young couples to add a “little dragon” to your family.
I hope my encouragement prompts more couples to try for a baby, although I know that the decision is a very personal one. All over the world, especially in developed societies like Singapore, fertility rates have been declining. Each generation has different aspirations. Many young people prioritise developing their careers, spending quality time with their partners, and pursuing other interests. Even couples who want kids may put off starting families, not realising how quickly it gets harder with each passing year.
All this is quite understandable. But I still hope that more Singaporean couples will decide to have more children, and to have them earlier!
We will build a “Singapore Made For Families”, and continue supporting your marriage and parenthood aspirations. We have progressively strengthened support for infant caregiving and work-life harmony, to see parents through their children’s formative years. Recently we doubled Government-Paid Paternity Leave from two to four weeks on a voluntary basis. Measures like these will lighten the burden on parents, but they are merely enablers. Ultimately, couples will decide whether to have children for their own reasons. I hope more will decide to go ahead, and I am confident they will find parenthood a deeply rewarding and fulfilling journey.
Entering the Dragon year, let us press forward with optimism and determination. I wish all Singaporeans good health, and a very happy Chinese New Year.