Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Baby-friendly Singapore

Singapore is still not family and baby friendly, in my opinion.

But when we talk about "friendliness", we have to know towards which segment of society it has to be "friendly".

Are we talking about the middle-class English-(and fairly) educated ethnic Chinese?

Picture above taken from Channelnewsasia.com

Look at those cute (Chinese-looking) babies.

So what is the message here? Is the birthrate problem an ethnic Chinese birthrate problem? Of course, it is still taboo in Singapore to racialise issues, so I do not wish to pursue this matter, for fear of my rice bowl, *insert economic pragmatist rhetoric here*.

The fall in birth rates is just a symptom of Chinese elite ideology which prioritises economic development and sustenance over many other domains of life.

While we may cheer the increase of maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks, there has been discussion that an increase in paternity leave will not help the economy. Again, people here are reduced to numbers.

The high cost of living, high levels of stress, the humidity and climate are few of many factors that discourage the average Singaporean from starting a family.

You have to have sufficient savings to (attempt to) negate some of the factors such as living costs.

At the same time, people do not produce children because there is a monetary incentive. Women do not become mums because of financial carrots.

Although women may be attracted to financial independence/empowerment and choose a more career-oriented path, creating infrastructure (in the form of financial incentives) to entice family and baby-creation is a whole different ballgame. The government thinks everyone has a price, but this is not true in most cases.

To have positive changes in birthrates, there are a lot of changes that need to be done. Culture, mindsets and the (social) environment have to change, but the culture, mindset and environment we have now is the result of years of post-independence policy, but having our attention diverted from these policies and the responsibilities of the state depoliticises the situation of low birthrates.

Does more tax breaks and other incentives for baby-making signal an impending increase in taxes for others?

The government is an expert in numbers. They use good case studies, role models, heroes, and combines numbers to provide us with healthy and awesome figures. But these serve to cause citizens to feel cynical, distrustful and dissonant because their realities do not match what is conveyed to them by the state.

Think about it. If Singapore has a truly "Singaporeans First" culture, why aren't Singaporeans happily producing new Singaporean babies? Singaporeans must feel like second, or third, or even last, which are good enough to deter them from having kids.

2 comments:

Wowbagger said...

What do humidity and climate have to do with having babies?

Sam Ho said...

hot/humid conditions may cause us to be more uptight and exacerbate symptoms of stress, which could affect social relations, etc.

but on the other hand, heat and humidity may cause people to wear less clothing, allowing for more (or unwanted) social interaction, etc.

just exploring the various possible reasons.