The culture that is Singapore

Thanks to the always great James Crabtree (@jamescrabtree), I learned two awesome facts about Singapore this morning.

First, they have children’s books about “famous urban planners.”  I’m not sure which is funnier, the fact that there are famous urban planners or that there are children’s books extolling their virtues.  I guess this is handy for nights when your kids can’t fall asleep. Here’s a photo of one of them and a link to where you can buy it (and even read a sample):


Here’s the synopsis that’s given at the publisher’s link:

“How does a spoilt young boy and party-going dandy become the man who housed a nation? Discover the passion that drives Lim Kim San from his comfortable, carefree life into a mission that would change Singapore forever.”

This seems like the worst superhero story ever. Maybe Zac Snyder can direct it.

Second, if your kids reads the book and cannot get enough urban planning, you are in luck.  The Singapore Housing and Development Board has a treat for you.  Here is their description of the fun you can have on a tour:

Come visit the HDB Gallery and share a slice of Singapore’s public housing story through the multi-sensory and self-exploratory exhibits. You can also watch the 3D fly-through video and take a virtual tour of the different zones, or download our brochure.

I cannot recommend the “fly through” highly enough–it is a crack up and definitely worth checking out.  This saved me a 17 hour flight and thousands of dollars!

A Singaporean strategy for increasing the fertility rate

In my Global Economic Relations course, we are currently discussing the economic benefits of free labor mobility.   One of the students mentioned that a lot of rich countries have low birth rates (often under the replacement level) and used Singapore as an example.

I explained to my students the creative (and often racist) ways in which the Singaporean government has encouraged people to have more babies. As noted in this 2006 article, Prime Minister Lee set up an institution in 1984 called the Social Development Unit (a perfect year to create such  an Orwellian sounding agency), which would find innovative ways to get young people to procreate.  He was worried that the well-educated women (who typically were of Chinese heritage) were not having babies, while the lesser educated women of Malay descent were procreating much more rapidly.

So what did the SDU try?

1. “Increased financial incentives to encourage bigger families, amounting to cash gifts of S$3000 (US$1889) for the first child and savings of up to S$18,000 each for the third and fourth child.”

2. Tax rebates

3. Tax cuts on maids plus more childcare and maternity benefits.

4. “Offer graduate women with three children priority in securing places at the top nursery schools, an advantage in helping children get ahead at school, university and in the workplace.”

5. Set up “love cruises” for singles!

6. “Speed-dating and online dating services, along with an agony aunt called Dr Love.”

Somehow all of those awesome ideas didn’t make Singaporean couples want to procreate.  So now the government has paired up with Mentos (huh?) to urge citizens to do their patriotic duty and make babies on “National Night.”  You truly cannot make this stuff up.

Here is the article on this awesome new campaign, but even better is the video itself.  Check it out in all its glory.  Wow.

I guess just allowing more young people to immigrate there is out of the question?