All over the globe, every first world country with a high standard of living is facing a problem: Not enough children to replace themselves.
Therefore, ALL first world countries have to rely on importing foreigners to fill a variety of jobs and to maintain a strong economy.
Have you wondered why though? According to The Economist (2006), the single largest enabler for the huge rate of growth in the world economy is this – the entrance of women into the workforce. In order to have first world living standards, women need to be in the workforce.
So think about this:
a.) If women (and everyone actually) spend a good half of their living hours studying and/or working in order to achieve their desire of having better lifestyles, what more time is there left to have and look after children? Is there a need to work so hard? We’ll explore later.
b.) It is observable that many believe children, in modern days, are not an “achievement” in life anymore. Neither are they necessary to “look after you in old age”. They’re also not required to help out in the family farm/business anymore. Thus, more individuals are questioning why they want children. Movies like “Sex in the City” glamorizes the single, independent, successful woman who settles down and has a baby late. Such media influence also contribute to the statistic.
c.) Effective birth-control and abortion. Humans now have so much control over their ability to have children that to have kids is a preference and seldom an accident.
d.) Couples are now waiting later and later to get married and start a family. Job commitments, waiting to “achieve goals”. Most are waiting till as late as their 30s and 40s. This gives rise to the risk of complications in child-birth.
We like to think that the “Stop at Two” policy was over effective in the 80s, but just like the rest of the world, we’re now finding out that this campaign wasn’t even necessary.
Is the country doing anything about falling birthrates (apart from foreigner inputs?), the answer is “yes”. I shan’t go into detail as this information is freely available and should be common knowledge anyway.
– Wide range of cash and tax relief incentives to have babies
– Protection by law against discrimination by employers
– Setting the example of shortening the work-week
– A powerful internet infrastructure means telecommuting is a real option (but in reality, few employers want to use this option…I’ll probably discuss this another day)
– A myriad of family day programs, day outs and activities
– Public service advertisements on why work-life balance is important
– Work-Life balance incentives and awards to businesses who advocate it
– Work-Life balance funds and programs by SPRING Singapore
However, all these are useless if the individual feels that he/she would rather spend more time making money or working. (And the Chinese/Asian culture of spending long hours at work doesn’t help at all.)
But is there a need to work so hard? Well, everyone does have a choice – and this will bring to mind the topic of “expensive/rising cost of living”. I shall address this in another post, but for now: Even if your household income is $1200 a month, this is enough to own a very small apartment and feed a very small family. Yes, it will be very frugal – but it’s possible.
The reality is this. Singaporeans, like every first world country in the world, want more than $1200 a month. They want their mobile phones, cars, four room apartments, big televisions, eat good meals at restaurants – which really is nothing wrong. But does this mean the Government should provide for luxurious living? And if so, how? Through subsidy? Should they make it a law for all employers to pay a handsome sum? Where do you draw the line then if humans are not known for being satisfied easily. (Remember, wherever there is a Government welfare or rising cost to business, there is economical karma to pay.)
The layman’s argument then, is that we want ownership of a house to be a “birth-right” – yet do you know that all over the world, this is not a reality. Having every citizen own a roof (especially in land scarce Singapore) is the vision of none other than Lee Kuan Yew, your “dictator”.
Everyone has different expectations from the Government. Yes, Government needs to be responsible for the well-being of it’s citizens but this does not include home ownership (or ownership of almost any other property for that fact).
We shall discuss cost of living (including medical care) in another post.