Why Singaporeans don’t want kids

Pre-school children tour the Garden by the Bay during an excursion in Singapore on July 25, 2012. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)
Pre-school children tour the Garden by the Bay during an excursion in Singapore on July 25, 2012. (AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman)

In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society. To be taken with a pinch of salt and parental permission is advised. In this post, he talks about Singaporeans' reluctance to have more children.

As our representatives are in parliament this week thrashing things out about where to take Singapore's population in the near future, the real reasons why young Singaporeans are reluctant to have children has largely been overlooked and under articulated.

Policymakers and talking heads on TV have been having their say.

Until now.

So here goes.

Stifling education

One very good reason why young Singaporean adults are shunning passing on their DNA is because they don't subscribe to torture: they don't want to bring something into this world so that they can undergo the Singapore system of education.

Imagine telling your flesh-and-blood that his or her worth is dependent on his or her PSLE and 'O' Levels grades.

Not only that, you have to put him or her in a uniform for at least 10 years, tell your brood to throw out-of-the-box thinking out of the window and remind them constantly that they are going to be nothing more than a cog in the economic machine.

And it is all "for their own good".

Sounds like the secular version of hell to you already?

Well, it gets better.

Singapore is already too crowded

Not only that, having kids in land scarce Singapore will prove to be a handful. Even more so in years to come.

Look, children have always been made up of three elements: noise, smells and energy.

And the problem with Singapore is that there are no spaces left to contain all these elements.

Look around you. Void decks are hardly void these days.

Schools are losing their green fields and basketball courts, as the buildings get extensions.

And every conceivable space to kick a ball around or chase one another silly in public is being occupied by yet another CapitaLand shopping mall.

Therefore, the last thing anyone wants to bring into this world is yet another mall rat.

Authoritarian regime

Another reason a lot of people here these days don't want to reproduce is because they cannot raise their brood to grow up to be rebels with a cause.

Make no mistake, Singapore is a great place to survive if you enjoy being a civil servant. Or a rule-abiding nerd.

However, if you belong to the nascent class of creative individuals with a healthy disrespect for authority and a penchant for thinking progressive thoughts, you might as well just die.

Name me a local musician, filmmaker, artist or writer this country has nurtured in the last ten years that has gone on to be recognised in the rest of the world?

Erm, let me see... mmm ya.

How about name me a national athlete that won something important who wasn't imported from China?

Any time you try to do something visionary, avant garde and boundary-pushing in this country, the authorities will be on your case in a jiffy.

Common refrains?

"You do not have the appropriate licence."

"You cannot do this. You need a permit."

"It is for your own good."

In other words, if you try to be a Martyn See or Boredphucks, you're going to get into trouble.

There is simply no wriggle room.

Major overhaul

Therefore, what policymakers need to understand is this: the population crisis we are facing now has very little to do with a lack of sex or an advanced developed economy.

Instead, it has everything to do with everything else: the politics, soft culture, society, plus the formal institutions and bottom-up establishments that would probably require a major overhaul to set things upright again.

Singapore, as it is now, doesn't inspire confidence among its people, especially the young and virile.

People project into the future based on what they see now.

And what they are seeing now is definitely not pretty.

Belmont Lay is the editor of New Nation. He is the third most opinionated person in Singapore.