I am a young Singaporean female, 23 years old. I have an Honours degree, and hope to continue on to at least a Masters at some point in the future. I am unmarried. I do not have a boyfriend, and neither am I in any particular hurry to get one.
At the 7th anniversary of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was asked about Singapore’s low birth-rate, and whether he thought that the Stop At Two policy that began in the late 1960s had anything to do with it.
“Stopping at two has nothing to do with what’s happened. It’s happening throughout the developed world. Once you have women educated with equal job opportunities they do not see their future as bearers of children. So fertility rate has gone down, I don’t see it going back to 2.1, which is the replacement rate. The only way it can happen is if you ‘diseducate’ or ‘uneducate’ the women and that doesn’t make sense. The economy will suffer.”
– Mr Lee Kuan Yew
Although I disagree with Mr Lee that the Stop At Two policy had nothing to do with Singapore’s dismal birth-rate, I do agree that many developed countries all over the world are seeing decreasing birth-rates and ageing populations, which suggests that the Stop At Two policy was not the sole factor in Singapore.
But to just move on and say that it is because of the women is just sexism, pure and simple. It’s not rational, sensible or pragmatic. It’s not even accurate, because it blatantly ignores a whole long list of other factors that affect people’s decisions to bear offspring, such as cost of living, change in lifestyles, lack of space, access to contraception and family planning programmes, etc. The high level of education – for both men and women, mind you – is only one factor in that long list.
Scarily enough, Mr Lee thinks that the only way to increase the birth-rate is to “diseducate” or “uneducate” women. As if dumbed-down females are all it takes; “oh, let’s stop giving these women knowledge and exposure to the outside world, and they’ll go right back to having lots and lots of babies for us!”
Luckily for us ladies, he goes on to dismiss the idea – but for all the wrong reasons. He dismisses the idea because “the economy will suffer”. Not because it’s regressive, not because it’s a breach of women’s rights to education, not because it’s just plain wrong. But because it’s not economically viable.
Gee, thanks. That makes me feel so much better. I now know that I was born to either make babies, or make money. Majulah Singapura, eh?
It always seems to be about the women, that we’re too highly-educated and too demanding and too ambitious, which is why we don’t have boyfriends. Why doesn’t anyone talk about the men who don’t have girlfriends? Or wait, is that supposedly because the women are too highly-educated and too demanding and to ambitious to deign to be these men’s girlfriends?
We girls just can’t win. So here goes:
Dear Mr Lee (and everyone out there who subscribes to this same mindset), I am a young single Singaporean female. I have a womb, and a degree. They co-exist quite harmoniously, and I would like it to remain that way. I will have my children when I do. Until then, please leave my educated ovaries alone.