Whenever talk of Singapore’s dismal birth rate pops up, you can always count on the government to give people something to snigger at. Let’s not even mention that small spaces gaffe.
Now, the Social Development Network is offering singles $100 this year, cash which they can use to attend dating events.
This isn’t the first time they’ve tried to dangle money in hopes that it’d encourage more people to get coupled up.
In 2012, they started selling vouchers to be used at their dating events, which the friends and family of singles were encouraged to buy as gifts for their forever-alone loved ones. Okay, we get the intention behind the gesture. But I’m not sure how people would feel if their mums gave them a $10 SDN voucher.
Now, no matter what you think of the SDN, this is definitely not one of the government’s smarter initiatives. Here are two things that would work a lot better in helping people get coupled up.
Make a genuine effort to promote work-life balance
Ask anyone who has decent social skills and yet has been single for a long time, and you can bet they’ll blame it on work.
1 in 2 Singaporeans aged 18 and above complain that work is a barrier to dating, while close to 65% say they spend too much time at work.
Another report which shed light on the fact that more Singaporeans are staying single found that the biggest reason was, again, work—people preferred to focus on their careers.
The government has made some half-hearted attempts to encourage companies to offer flexi-work, but the take-up rate has been low. Most flexible work arrangements are offered on a case-by-case basis, and part-time work is the most common form of flexi-work, something which most singles can’t afford to take up because it also means part-time pay.
Single, full-time employees who don’t have a good enough excuse (ie. kids to pick up after school) often have few chances to request a flexible schedule—this despite the fact that more and more people are doing jobs that can be done remotely thanks to the Internet.
Helping Singaporeans get coupled up goes beyond just handing them $100 and hoping they’ll get a few Whatsapp numbers at the three events that $100 will let them attend. It’s about giving them the space to build a relationship with someone, and later, should they choose to start a family, the time and space to raise one.
And until we see some genuine effort to promote work-life balance and flexibility at work without insisting that working fewer hours will somehow make the economy crash, this is unlikely to change.
Give people $100 credit to spend on fun events not under the SDN banner
The reach of the $100 that’s been given to SDN members is quite limited in scope. While all unmarried Singaporeans are automatically SDN members, they have to register as SDN users in order to qualify for the cash gift.
Now, I know way more people who have Tinder premium memberships than people who are SDN members. Like it or not, there’s still a stigma surrounding SDN.
In addition, the $100 credit doesn’t even cover the full cost of events, but up to 50%. Too use all their credits, singles would have to spend at least $100 to attend events they weren’t even sure they wanted to attend.
And even for those who do go for SDN events, there is no guarantee they’ll find someone. Some of my friends who’ve been for these events didn’t have very good reviews—the fact that everyone was there to look for a partner made people nervous and guarded.
It would be much more effective (though more expensive, since the take-up rate would be much higher) to give single Singaporeans cash to use on events related to their hobbies or interests, not under the SDN banner, that will get them out of the house and mingling with people. Like ActiveSG credits, but without being limited to sporting activities.
Encouraging people to attend events that promote interaction with others without feeling like they’re being judged for their child-rearing capacities will serve them much better in the long run.
After all, meeting new people is all about getting used to regularly doing stuff and interacting with new people outside of work, rather than always retreating into your comfort zone by hiding at home after work. More people would actually use the $100 credits, and those who actually met someone they liked would be able to do so more organically, which I daresay would raise their success rate.
Some potential events people could spend their credits on include sports classes conducted in a group, like windsurfing or sailing courses, stand up comedy shows or even entry to clubs. That way, they’d also be more likely to find a partner with whom they share common interests.
Of course, there will be people who argue that allocating money for something not directly related to dating and marriage is inefficient. Well, Singaporeans are already some of the most pragmatic people in the developed world when it comes to marriage and family. And look where that’s gotten us.
What do you think can be done to help Singaporeans looking for a partner to couple up? Tell us in the comments!