Coined by the Taiwanese media, the term “Strawberry Generation” refers to those who were born between 1981 and 1991. The analogy likens the current generation to strawberries because they were raised in a better environment as compared to previous generations and therefore the common perception is that because of this, they are unable to withstand hardships and “bruise easily”. Secondly, strawberries are prized for their delicacy and fetch a high price. This suggests that this generation grew up in the economic boom and more often than not get what they want and hence have developed a sense of entitlement.
This begs the question of whether this is an accurate depiction or plain stereotyping. An incident that sparked a big hoo ha in Singapore in 2011 was one when an NS man was photographed with his domestic helper carrying his backpack. The NS man was condemned as “unmanly”, “spoilt” and “soft” but if you further deliberate, many youths and young adults display such behaviour, just not necessarily in this particular form. An interview of an HR Manager by AsiaOne mentioned that the Strawberry Generation employees thrive on instant gratification in terms of career development and progression. He estimates that they generally stay about an average of 18 months in a job before going back into the market for more “exciting” job opportunities. Contrast this with the baby boomers who could work 10 to 30 years, some even more, in a single organisation and you can draw the conclusion that the Strawberry Generation operate on a very different level. Growing up in a time where the economy is on the general uptrend, not having experienced the troubled times of war or riots, having easy access to healthcare, education, broadband/internet connectivity and beyond our daily necessities has cultivated a sense of entitlement and lack of resilience. We (yes, myself included) demand that our needs be fulfilled, instantly if possible and whine/quit when we don’t get what we want.
While the Strawberry Generation might lead a better life than their predecessors in terms of material possessions, there are a couple of social and political pitfalls to be wary of. By continually purporting instant-gratification, an overall lack of resilience and an excessively comfortable standard of living, the Strawberry Generation might be in no way prepared for whatever trials the future may hold. If the values passed down to their future generations are of the “me-first” variety, how can we expect our future generations to forge a gracious and inclusive society? If Singapore ever goes to war or experiences significant economic downturn, will the Strawberry Generation and their future generations crumble under the pressure? For this we have no answer as we have yet to put the pedal to the metal.
In addition, there is a danger of the Strawberry Generation’s sense of entitlement being carried over in the form of unrealistically high expectations of the Government. From expecting handouts to wanting the Government to solve everything, this could be seen as the Strawberry Generation not wanting to get their hands dirty, yet demanding their wants be fulfilled by the reigning regime. Worse still, many may be more concerned with the well-being of the economy and become politically apathetic. If more and more of the Strawberry Generation subscribe to this belief, there would be less and less visionary individuals stepping forward to take up office, leading to lack of renewal in the Government. If things pan out this way, I dare say things won’t look good for Singapore’s future.