Monday, 14 September 2009

Letter in ST Forum

I refer to the letter published in Straits Times Forum on 9th Sep 2009, 'Few Babies? It's the Hotel Mama mindset'.

Letter written by Peter Huber

IT IS not by chance that Singapore has such a low fertility rate. There are many contributing factors, but an important one is the housing policy and the mindset behind it.

In Europe and the United States, people leave their homes in their early 20s or even earlier. With their salaries, they can afford to rent a place, maybe with a friend or two. Those aged 25 and above, who are still living at home, are considered strange, immature and lacking in independence.

In the West, people in their 20s experiment, enjoy their freedom and have probably more than one relationship before they settle down and start a family.

In Singapore, it is a policy that only married couples can have an affordable, subsidised flat. It is way too expensive for someone who has just entered the workforce to rent or buy an apartment on the resale market. So they live with their parents and enjoy Hotel Mama, which is comfortable and saves them some money.

But they have to follow their parents' rules, such as, 'When I wake up, you have to be in your bed, alone'. Bringing a lover home is out of the question. For them, childhood continues until they are well into their 30s.

Is it then really surprising that there are not many babies?

It is not just a question of having no private space. It is also a question of mentality. In the West, young people learn early to stand on their own feet, to take care of themselves, to live their own lives.

In Singapore, the young are conditioned to follow the rules, to live for their schools or jobs, to listen to their parents and to be obedient citizens.

But different qualities are needed for starting a family, such as readiness to take risks, independence and the ability to have fun.

In Singapore, there is too much emphasis on obedience, too little on independence. That is not good for having babies.

Some might say that Singapore has no choice because it is a small island. But I don't know any other big city which has so much empty land, even at the best locations next to underground train stations.

It seems to be the policy here to make available only a little land for buildings and to keep property prices sky-high.


I agree with Peter on his 1st sentence, that is...

"IT IS not by chance that Singapore has such a low fertility rate."

Yes, it is not by chance that we are not having enough babies. The policies that had been put in place as well as the evolving role of women plays a part. For those who are not aware or had forgotten, a policy called 'Stop at Two' was ever put in placed in 1969.

The response to this policy was very positive. It was so good that the population of Singapore started to decrease. It was until 1987 that the government realize that the population is declining at a rapid rate that they introduced the policy, '3 or more if you can afford it'.

The pictures below shows the publicity posters back then.

Unfortunately, that is the only thing I agree with Peter.

Peter went on to explain that another factor that causes low birth rate in Singapore is that we are traditional in our thinking. That is, we stay with our parents only until we are married and have our own family. And the fact that because we stay with our parents we do not have the freedom to bring home a sex partner.

It seems to me that, only after having multiple sex partners and then a person will eventually settle down with one and that is how we can increase birth rate.

I was bewildered by the rationale or is there something else to it?

The Asians and the Westerners behave differently due to only one reason -- different culture leading to a different set of values. Therefore, what works for the west may not work for us.

One may say that I'm conservative but social as well as moral responsibility is equally essential.
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