A new centre which bridges academic insights with public policies for the benefit of family units was launched by the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on 28 April. Ms Grace Fu, Minister, Prime Minister's Office; Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources; and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs graced the occasion at NUS as Guest-of-Honour.
The Centre for Family and Population Research (CFPR) is dedicated to research, training and mentorship in the area of family and population studies in Singapore and Asia. Adopting a multidisciplinary, life course and international comparative approach, it will leverage advanced scientific research methodologies to gain a deeper understanding of the trends, determinants, and consequences of family and population changes, particularly in Asia.
In her speech, Ms Fu highlighted the critical role which CFPR would play. "Research into these shifting social attitudes and needs, as well as the policies that could address these changes, are of significant practical value. The findings will inform policymaking to support citizens in their marriage and parenthood journeys, in the most relevant and impactful way. Looking beyond Singapore, Ms Fu said that as the demographic shifts taking place in Singapore were not unique, the CFPR could serve as a hub for knowledge exchange between researchers across Asia.
Research undertaken by the CFPR spans eight themes: fertility and marriage; ageing and health; children and youth development; intergenerational relations and transfers; changing family living arrangements and family values; migration and integration; human capital and labour market; and gender relations. The Centre will offer training programmes on social research, targeted at students, government employees and social service practitioners from May, as well as mentorship opportunities for affiliates including junior faculty members and graduate students.
NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan hailed the Centre's approach, saying: "To understand the complexities of family and population changes and therefore be better able to address the challenges effectively, well-designed empirical research is vital…the NUS Centre for Family and Population Research is very well positioned to contribute to this effort.
Centre Director Professor Jean Yeung from the NUS Department of Sociology and Asia Research Institute highlighted several changes which could help increase fertility rate in Singapore. "The financial incentive of this one-time baby bonus is not going to do it. It's going to have to be a much longer-term commitment financial support for the family…and the other part that we need to do more is really to promote more gender equality, both at home and at work, she said. "I think overall, our work environments still make it very hard for women to leave because they're having a baby or getting married…this whole social environment and attitude really need to change.
In conjunction with the launch, the inaugural Conference on Singapore Families and Population Dynamics was held. The conference featured a host of social sciences scholars such as Professor Gavin Jones, Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, Australian National University and Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University; Adjunct Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Dr Aline Wong; and family and population experts including Honorary Chairman, Centre for Fathering Mr Lim Soon Hock.
The Conference was one of the events which commemorate NUS' 110th anniversary as well as Singapore's 50th year of independence.