Singapore - Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday called on couples to have more children as the city-state's birth rate slipped to its lowest level to date in 2009.
"Despite all our efforts, we are producing far too few babies," Lee said in a message marking Sunday's start of the lunar Year of the Tiger.
"Last year, we were short of at least 10 000 babies just to replace ourselves," he added.
Lee especially urged ethnic Chinese to dismiss their superstitions against children born in a Year of the Tiger.
The total fertility rate of Singapore, which has a population of 4.9 million people, dropped from 1.28 children per woman in 2008 to 1.23 last year, said Lee, a number far below the replacement level of 2.1.
For Singapore's Chinese majority the birth rate had been even lower as it fell to 1.09 last year, he added.
Lee warned that some Chinese couples preferred not to have children during a Year of the Tiger, which is regarded as holding risks and uncertainties.
"It is one thing to encourage ourselves with the traditional attributes of the zodiac animals," said Lee.
"But it is another to cling to superstitions against children born in the Year of the Tiger, who are really no different from children born under other animal signs," he added.
In its efforts to counter the demographic challenges of low fertility and an aging population, Singapore's government has launched several campaigns and offered incentives to provide a more pro-family environment for its citizens.