The government is getting its panties in a twist over the recent survey results which showed that 60% of single Singaporeans aged 21 to 45 are not dating seriously—dating seriously being defined as dating with a view to marriage. Die la, like that how to meet their birth rate KPI?
So what’s the solution? To force everyone to go for SDN matchmaking events? To continue spamming unmarried people’s mailboxes with that horrible Duets publication?
“Dating experts” have suggested that online dating is to blame for Singaporeans not wanting to settle down with a mate when there’s a sea of fish out there, but we think it’s not quite so simple.
While there are many people who are happily single and enjoying life, there are just as many who do want to be dating or even married, sometimes desperately so, but just can’t find a partner.
Here are the two biggest things the government can do to help Singaporeans who want to date find a mate.
Place a cap on the amount of hours employers can make their employees work
Check out the number of people still stuck at your typical Raffles Place office at 10pm on a weekday, and it’s easy to see why many single people are too busy to mingle.
With some of the world’s longest working hours, it’s not surprising that Singaporeans also have one of the world’s lowest birth rates.
Meeting someone, building a relationship and nurturing it takes time. You can’t just turn up at some SDN event, choose a random person who looks like they’d be willing to ballot for a BTO flat, and be set for life.
Any rules forbidding employers from overworking their employees would probably help singles in the dating department. Sure, you might think that this is a ridiculous stretch, but it’s not as a far-fetched a solution as you might think.
Right now, the Employment Act only protects workmen and non-executive, non-manager employees earning $2,500 or less. Employers are generally not allowed to make them work more than 44 hours a week. But for Singapore millennials, 48 hours a week is actually the average.
This could mean putting a cap on the number of hours worked per day, and requiring that employers offset hours worked over this maximum by offering days off. That way, workers can put in extra hours during crunch time and then take more time off during lull periods.
More free time means you no longer have to live a life that consists of nothing but work, MRT rides and sleep. And anyone who’s ever come home exhausted from work and fallen asleep with their lights on knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Work on making Singapore not just family-friendly, but single-friendly, too
Other than the lack of work-life balance, Singapore does try to be a family-friendly face. Expats often comment that it’s a great place for families with kids due to the safety, abundance of playgrounds, library facilities and so on. Hit up a shopping mall on a weekend and you’ll often find roadshows targeted at screaming kids.
On the other hand, the Republic’s rather sterile image, high alcohol taxes, high rents and housing policies which disadvantage singles make it a less than ideal for young Singaporeans who want to go out, have fun, meet people and take their first steps towards independence.
It might sound counter-intuitive to make Singapore single-friendly when all the government really cares about is that singles combine to become family-units ASAP. But again, you can’t have the latter without first enabling young people to meet, mingle and have fun.
One common complaint of Singaporeans who remain single by choice is that dating is expensive. If young people have the perception that the only affordable way to spend the weekend is to play video games in their childhood bedroom, good luck trying to get them coupled up.
Some have also suggested that affordable, single-friendly housing be provided. Living with parents, especially in tiny flats, can be restrictive, especially if said parents are on the old-fashioned side.
Believe it or not, I have friends who at the age of thirty are still expected to be home by a certain time and aren’t allowed to sleep at a friend’s home. Some singles living at home spend a lot of time attending to family commitments, such as ferrying their parents around or baby sitting siblings’ children, to the point where they don’t have much time for themselves.
Ultimately, the government needs to consider whether their vision of a nuclear family-centric society, where family members have a strong obligation to financially support and live with each other is, ironically enough, making it harder for singles to build lives of their own.
What are the biggest factors hindering Singaporeans from dating? Tell us in the comments!