I was wondering recently on a point raised by Focus on the Family Singapore, “Are today’s young adults, like myself more likely to be encumbered by unprecedented debt – an obvious discouragement to starting a family?” From my point of view, at this moment in time, it would seem that the source of that debt would be the house.
Many of us know the Singapore dream as owning one’s own home. Being in my final year of university, I’m just beginning to feel the weight of this “dream”. I’m surrounded by friends who are in the midst of applying for their first HDB flat. All around, I hear concerns regarding which kind of flat to opt for, ballot results, queue numbers, waiting times and not to mention, how one is going to pay for it. With so much in the way of even getting a place to live, it seems difficult to think beyond that to filling one’s home with family.
The push for couples to have more children then, just seem to be at odds with the current situation to me. On one hand, we’re pushed to marry earlier (Jones, 2012) AND have more children. On the other, there may not be a place for young couples to move into because of the housing shortage and resulting costs associated with having one’s own place.
Expenses & Work With the burden of expenses, many would definitely be concerned with career in order to be able to increase one’s own income. For those of my friends just starting out in the first year of work, they’re wondering how long they would have to work before being able to afford just the down payment for a flat (if they even managed to get one in the ballot).
Time & Age Factor in the time one has to wait before being able to move in, while saving up and the HDB buildings are being constructed, and a couple could be close to 30 years old! Hence, the problem of age and decreased fertility too (Heffner, 2004).
Work Hours & Time for Family Furthermore, after a number of internships, and experiencing the MOM recommended 42 hour-a-week office hours, I honestly do not understand how people are able to work and have the time to bring up their own families. Yet, with all the expenses a family would have, I do not see how one might be able to give up work either. I can understand why fertility and full-time employment don’t really go hand in hand (Ahn & Mira, 2000).
I sincerely applaud those parents who are able to juggle the two, as well as those who have given up career aspirations to spend more time with family and have managed to handle their finances. At this point in my life, I really am not sure how they do it. As a 22-year-old student, I admit that I may still be ignorant and the above may sound like griping about money and working hours. But, these really are sincere concerns. My peers and I will be the next generation of families and this is the situation that we need to work with.
Yes, the government is working on easing these burdens through the building of more HDB flats, improving subsidies and encouraging employers to work with parents who are employees. However, changes take time. In the meantime, perhaps young people like my peers and I will just have to adapt. We may have to “Reframe the Singapore dream” and be prepared to be flexible with our living arrangements. Moving away from the notion of immediately owning one’s own home, couples might have to be open to adopting a culture of rent. Alternatively, if healthy relationships are in place, a couple might have to move in with in-laws for a period of time. And throughout all this, I guess the fact remains that one needs to learn to be thrifty. Many other couples before us have managed to have their own home while managing finances, work and family. With a good attitude in place, it seems possible to make a good life in Singapore.
Ahn, N. & Pedro, M. (2000). A note on the changing relationship between fertility and female employment rates in developed countries. Journal of Population Economics, 15, 667-682.
Heffner, L. J. (2004). Advanced maternal age— how old is too old? New England Journal of Medicine, 359(19), 1927-1929.
Jones, G. (2012). Late marriage and low fertility in Singapore: the limits of policy. The Japanese Journal of Population, 10(1), 89-101