When it comes to children, family and marriage – I feel we are too quick to take the easiest route out and seek blame. We blame society for its high prices, we blame the state for lack of welfare, we seek new target boards and means to justify it. I’d like to present a new perspective here for your consideration.
It is not because “things” are expensive.
If this is so, explain why countries with increasing birthrates are dominated by 3rd world countries, war torn countries and countries experiencing severe poverty? And why countries with falling fertility include American, European, Australian and other countries with strong welfare?
“Things” are not expensive. Our lifestyles are. There’s an old Singaporean saying, “If you give a kid an ice-cream, he’ll never want vegetables again”.
Noodles used to cost $1.50 when I as a kid, today (i’m 32 now) it’s $2.50. Basic life needs aren’t all that unaffordable. Apart from housing (of which we will discuss later) basic products for a comfortable life, haven’t really increased much and even then, most salaries have grown to accommodate for these.
What salary does not grow to accommodate for include: cars, iPads, LCD TVs, fibre connection subscriptions, iMacs, Diablo III, Pradas, Starbucks – and the peer pressure that follows them. We’re very crafty at disguising our boasts and sneaking them into our conversations. Consider the following:
“Aiyo, my husband, he went to buy a $2k TV, sooo expensive…”
“This bag costs me $8k, soooo expensive, but I believe in good material….”
“…sorry, I can’t join you guys, have a big proposal worth $100k to work on, will stay up very late tonight and burn the weekend also…”
And on that note, have you ever wondered why someone must always tell you the name of a country they’re traveling to, when a simple “I’ll be overseas” will do.
So, here’s the reason why we’re not getting married earlier:
The average person dates for 3 – 7 years before settling down. And this may still lead to a breakup. He/she will probably repeat this cycle with 2 or 3 other partners. By the time one actually settles down, one would already be in their 30s.
Women seek confidence in their partner. Men seek career and wealth. We’re all trying to out-spend each other, out-work each other, out-perform our friends and even our own partners. How is this conducive to family life?
The flow-chart to a wedding process goes like this:
1.) Decision on partner
2.) Decision on wedding expenses
3.) Decision on accomodation
As weddings get more and more creative, it gets more and more expensive. Once again, the desire to out-do the other couple fuels businesses to design products that cost more. Amongst women, there seems to be some perverse idea that the ring they get must cost 3 times a man’s monthly salary. How in the world do you expect a man to propose to you if there is such an expectation from him?
It is possible to spend only a few thousand dollars for a full wedding and dinner at a simple restaurant. But rather unlikely many of us will take this up. Majority of us fit ourselves to conform to spending on an event that will cost an entire year’s salary. Nothing wrong with that, but those of us who cannot afford it feel belittled and small. We should not foist our ideals of a marriage upon others.
I’ve seen more than a few creative weddings that didn’t cost more than a few thousand dollars: at a chalet, at a pub, at a nice restaurant, at a church. Heck, if you’re in a rush, just sign the contract at ROM (sex and the city style) and go – almost free of charge!
Were these expenses a result of inflation? Were they a result of any government policy? Would it be fair to expect society to pay for our lifestyles?
Cheaper flats will be very helpful, but not a solution
What do I mean? Let’s put it this way: if you’re hungry, chicken rice is not a solution. Eating chicken rice is how you solve your hunger.
Cheaper flats would only be helpful to individuals who have moved to the third stage of the wedding process (buying an apartment). But it is not in itself, a solution… because the dating couple has not decided to settle down and “eat” yet. So making it cheaper does not help those who have not yet decided on their choice of life partner. Amongst my brood of buddies, many of us already own our own property – but still remain single.
But if you’ve already decided to wed, there are many grants, programs and policies available to help new couples buy and as we speak, many more initiatives are being developed by MND to improve the price of apartments.
How do I know I am right? The litmus test is to look at some segments of our society, there are certain ethnic and religious segments marrying young, buying houses and have many, many children – whilst the rest of us sit here and complain that it’s too expensive to do so.
We can make our lives easier with one small first step – and that involves us not to indulge in boastful conversations (no matter how well camouflaged) and to stop glorifying sadistic practices such as staying in the office late (go home on time, it is normal).
I think the Government’s agenda is misunderstood. They have said that we should work hard, we should grow our GDP. But what it looks like now is that we have “走火入魔“ (zou huo ru muo, a Chinese term of overdoing something).