Saturday, 8 December 2012

Keep Children in school till 7pm

Consciously deciding whether to have children, and if so, how many, is an inherently personal decision highly sensitive to quality-of-life issues.  Bringing a child into this world is a long term commitment of time, energy and money..... I see more of my peers deciding not to have children simply because they perceive themselves as being unable to commit the time or energy or money to children.  Responsible or irresponsible?  How will this play out in the future for Singapore as a society? 

The game theory concept of the prisoners' dilemma may be applied to this situation.  For the individual, it is a conscious utility-maximising (short term of course, but as the famous 1930s American economist Keynes states "we are all dead in the long run", so who cares about the long term.....) NOT to have children.  Even though the collective effect of all these individual decisions result in an ageing society with fewer people in the 'economically active' age group of 21-55.

Time to rethink what Singapore, and Singaporeans, perceives our prized human capital to be. 

Having children cannot and must not be a pure economic decision..... Values have a big part to contribute to raising Singapore's Total Fertility Rate, currently standing at a dismal 1.2.  I have children because of my personal belief that they bring purpose and meaning to my life.  In no other human relationship does one have complete and utter responsibility for another human being, love etched into the heart, love occupying my waking hours.  Work Life Balance eludes me... and then I am strangely encouraged when even a senior member of the American goverment admits that she cannot have it all.

The headline on Page 3 of the Straits Times "Keep kids in school till 7pm so mums can go to work?" is, in my opinion, delibrately provocative.  I am certain there will be a flurry of letters to the Forum page from working moms as well as stay-at-home moms tomorrow and for days after, so I shall not add to the deluge.  I shall watch this space to see how this part of our national conversation plays out in the media.

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