Do you know …
On average, a baby was born in Singapore every 11 minutes in 1965!1
The high birth rates stretched facilities at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital (KKH). Lee Suk Ting, a Nursing Officer, recounted the situation in 1962: “The number of deliveries in KKH was at its peak, with an average of 100 deliveries per day. The number of beds available then fell far short of demand, and many deliveries were conducted with patients lying on the floor on mackintoshes or on transport trolleys. Patients in the early stages of labour sat for long hours on hard wooden benches waiting for a bed.” 2
Nearly all mothers with normal deliveries had to be discharged within 24 hours. In 1966, the number of deliveries reached a record high of 39,835 and won KKH a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest number of births in a single maternity facility – a record it held for 10 years.3
Recognising the potential impact of the high birth rates on the Republic's limited resources, Minister for Health, Mr. Yong Nyuk Lin, tabled a White Paper in Parliament in September 1965 and outlined a Five-year Mass Family Planning programme aimed at reducing the birth rate from 29.9 per thousand in 1965 to 20 per thousand in 1970.4 The Family Planning and Population Board (FPPB) was subsequently established in January 1966 to implement the recommendations in the White Paper. 5
The national policy then was to provide family planning facilities to all eligible married women in the 15-44 years age group, numbering about 180,000. A sum of S$1 million was allocated for the entire programme.6 Although the programme met with initial resistance, more than 156,000 eventually received family planning services.7 By the end of its third cycle in 1980, fertility rate had declined to 1.7 children per female population.8 By then, however, Singapores economic growth and aging population meant that it needed to maintain a sizeable workforce. The family planning programme was revised in 1986 to encourage Singaporeans to have more children.
Mr. Yong Nyuk Lin speaking at inauguration meeting of the
Family Planning and Population Board (FPPB) in January 1966.
National Day Float decorated with family planning
campaign posters by FPPB in 1968.
Family planning campaign posters produced between 1974-1983, to educate public on the advantages of small families and how that could be achieved with family planning. "Stop at Two" was the official slogan.
1 Based on figures from the Family Planning and Population Board Annual Report 1965, p.5.
2 Paulin Koh, "History of Midwifery and O&G Nursing in Singapore" in The History of Obstetrics & Gynaecology in Singapore, ed. Tan Kok Hian and Tay Eng Hseon (Singapore: ARMOUR Publishing Pte Ltd, 2003), p. 373.
3 Dr Kelvin Tan Kok Hian, "The World’s Largest Maternity Hospital – How It All Began” in The History of Obstetrics & Gynaecology in Singapore, ed. Tan Kok Hian and Tay Eng Hseon (Singapore: ARMOUR Publishing Pte Ltd, 2003), pp. 48-50.
4 Speech by Mr Chua Sian Chin, Minister for Health, at the Conference on Regional Cooperation in Population and Family Planning on Thursday, 22 October 1970 at Kuala Lumpur. Source: Ministry of Culture.
5 Speech by Mr Yong Nyuk Lin, Minister for Health, at the official opening of the Working Group on Communication Aspects of Family Planning sponsored by ECAFE at the Conference Hall on Tuesday, 5 September 1967 at 10 am. Source: Ministry of Culture.
7Speech by Mr Chua Sian Chin, Minister for Health, at the Opening Ceremony of the Second Official Meeting of the Inter-Governmental Coordinating Committee, Southeast Asian Regional Cooperation in Family and Population Planning at the Hotel Equatorial on Monday, 21 February 1972 at 9 am. Source: Ministry of Culture.
8 Singapore Family Planning & Population Board, Fifteenth Annual Report, 1980, p. 2.
9 Parliamentary Debates Official Report, Second Session of the Sixth Parliament, Vol. 48, Sitting No. 7, “Oral Answers to Questions”, Declining Population Growth (Corrective Measures), 22 September 1986.