The ranks of married Singaporeans remaining childless have grown in the past decade and a small-scale study has shed some light on why some women have chosen not to procreate.
In 2010, 20.5 per cent of ever-married female citizens in the 30 to 39 age group were childless - and that is a significant jump from the 13.2 per cent in 2000, said demographer Gavin Jones.
By the end of their child-bearing years, the proportion of married women in their 40s who are childless has also risen in the past decade, although not as sharply as those in their 30s, he noted.
In 2010, 8.6 per cent of ever-married female citizens in the 40 to 49 age group were childless - up from 6 per cent in 2000. Ever-married refers to those currently married, divorced or widowed.
The latest Census data suggests that more married Singaporeans were not having babies, said Professor Jones of the Asia Research Institute. The figure includes women who want children but are infertile.
This trend is a headache for policymakers struggling to boost Singapore's shrinking birth rates.
But not all women who have decided against motherhood are doing so because they do not want children, according to an in-depth study of 16 married Chinese Singaporean women who have chosen not to have babies.
For the eight women without degrees and earning an average monthly pay of $2,350, the most commonly cited reason for being childless is a lack of money. Most said they desire children but feel that they cannot afford to raise a child in costly and highly competitive Singapore.
The top reason against babies for university-educated women who take home an average monthly pay of $6,250 is that they feel they cannot juggle motherhood and a job, and are unwilling to sacrifice their career prospects.
The qualitative study is the first published research examining why Chinese Singaporean women consciously choose not to have children, Nanyang Technological University sociology professor Caroline Pluss, 48, told The Sunday Times.
Her former student Amanda Ee, 25, and Hong Kong sociologist Chan Kwok-bun, 62, also authored the study. It will be published in Springer's International Handbook of Chinese Families later this year.
The study, while not representative of Singapore's population, provides a 'unique insight' into a phenomenon not openly discussed or well understood, said Professor Pluss, who has a young son.
Its sample size is small given that married women who choose not to have children are in the minority and it is hard to get them to open up. Qualitative studies also usually involve a small number of people.
In fact, most women interviewed preferred to keep mum about their decisions not to have children, as it is considered a deviant attitude in family-friendly Singapore, said Miss Ee, who is single. All the women had to persuade their husbands not to have children.
The university-educated women did not see the need for children to complete their families, she added, even though society usually defines a family as a couple with children.
Aside from financial constraints, the less-educated women also said they were deterred by the lack of reliable help in raising children, such as from parents.
Both groups of women were loath to give up their time and freedom, and anticipated that their husbands would not do their share in caring for Junior.
Jane, a 32-year-old graduate and business development officer who was not involved in the study, said that she and her bank employee husband of three years do not want children because it means a lifetime of having to worry about everything from care to getting them into good schools.
Jane, who has a master's degree and declined to give her full name, said: 'It's too much trouble. I don't think having kids are worth it. There's just too much to think about.'