March 8, 2021

International Women’s Day 2021; boardrooms and parliaments have never been more gender-inclusive. We have the most powerful country in the world electing their first-ever female minority vice president, making her suddenly one of the most powerful women in the world even though Singapore has been having a female president for the past four years. Everyone is in a mad rush to push for inclusivity, which is an insane irony because we now know that women have been the worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic recession. Although women accounted for 46 per cent of U.S. employment before Covid-19, they also make up 54 per cent of overall job losses, a McKinsey & Co. report found. A trend that may take years and years to reverse for all the inclusivity and gender equality that is happening in the ivory towers—as if we have class differential in the female gender ideology.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate brave women—the family breadwinners, the single mothers, the inspiring ones, the ordinary wives who oil the household machinery and also the poor girl who suffered 80 per cent burns trying to save her fiancé from a burning car some weeks ago.

A rough poll of Singaporean friends turned out some amazing results. While some may hesitate to rush into a raging fire to save their spouse, there will be no qualms when it comes to saving their child in the same situation. (Incidentally, the spouse will not rush into the flames insensibly to save either, with the need for at least one survivor for the family unit.)

We are reading about all the progress in societies trying to “end the son bias,” getting more women into STEM degrees, young Noble Prize laureate education heroes like Malala Yousafzai, even younger environment champions like Greta Thunberg, female entrepreneurs and philanthropists and all. But there lies a huge problem that governments will stop short of calling an emergency.

Where are the babies?!

If you asked us, we would say panic is warranted because we have been avidly following the population issues for some years now and the Covid lockdown period was predicted to produce a baby bonanza of sorts, yet it has yielded troublesome outcomes with the WSJ now declaring “The Covid Baby Bust Could Reverberate for Decades,” with far-reaching consequences for businesses and economies (not to mention a lot of vacant apartments, from our personal observations). To be plainly blunt, we need babies to pay taxes and inherit the debt.

Let’s look at the headlines:

– Global Fertility Decline Will See Population In Over 20 Countries Halved By 2100; Futurism

– Large population decline expected in China and India; World Economic Forum

– Hong Kong’s population contracted by 50k residents in 2020, biggest shrink since WW2; Reuters

– French Births Drop to Lowest Since World War II as Pandemic Hit; Bloomberg

– Births in Italy plunged 21.6% in December from the previous year; WSJ

– Chinese city the size of New York predicts 27% birth rate drop from 2019; SCMP

– Everyone Has to Pay When America Gets Too Old; Bloomberg

– Budget debate: Allow healthy S’porean women aged 40 and below to freeze their eggs here, says MP; Straits Times

– Singapore Population Drops for First Time Since 2003 on Economy; Bloomberg

– Singapore to seek public engagement with young couples on raising families in a post-COVID-19 world; Today

– Japan to fund AI matchmaking to boost birth rate; BBC

– A separate survey shows some women have decided to delay pregnancy or have fewer children because of the pandemic; SCMP

Let us not blame it all on Covid-19 and we will endeavour to explain why, albeit inexhaustibly, after some research, interviews with single women, single mothers, single men, millennial couples and a bunch of old folks.

Truism to a certain (controversial) degree, men like smart women but they just do not want to marry them.

We can agree to disagree, but we did the litmus test and asked the 20-year-old kid, product of a single mother, who had turned out quite well, as we can attest.

Q: Will you marry a woman smarter than you?

A: “No.”

Q: Why?

A:  blank

Q: What about Mommy?

A: “That’s ok. She is mom.”

And, thus, the interview with a single, geeky, highly educated and accomplished quantitative programmer girl, who has not had a boyfriend since her late teens (she is on the other side of 30 now) and cannot find a right partner.

Q: Why do you choose to remain single?

A: “No one I like at the moment and no one I liked wanted a relationship with me, so there is no point in compromising. The last guy I liked was a good-looking and intellectual Italian back in my master’s programme whom I had many interesting conversations with, but nothing happened and he is still single, as far as I know.”

Q: Have you tried dating apps or any other resource to improve your chances?

A: “There is no point because there is too much competition and it is really a rat race for men with some really attractive youngsters and there is really not a lot of connection in the social circles. It feels like we do not fit in the role of the “typical family woman” guys are looking out for in their search for a family life. Life is not short of male friends (who just happen to be married) who just like to have an intellectual chat now and then.”

Q: How has it been, living alone?

A: “Just avoid the swimming pool in the condo on weekends because there are too many families. Tapao all the time to avoid eating alone and avoid cinemas (stream or Netflix). The new generation is a little too “cold.” I know girls openly confronting their partners about “moving” for their new job in the U.S. and ending the relationship altogether.”

Q: What is your definition of the “typical family woman” from the perspective of a typical Singaporean man?

A: “A woman who is conventional, docile and not too aggressive in their careers, with the prerequisite to wanting a family. That is the opposite of myself; I am too idealistic and not keen to have children who will end up a freak like myself.”

We would not bother to go about much about the single men interviews that involved some facetious comments like “find me a hot chick with a high Mensa score and I will gladly donate my sperm” but there were constructive comments too.

As far as we can gather, it seems some single men we spoke to would prefer a certain predictability (in addition to attraction) in life and if that “predictability” cannot be found, realistically, in the workplace then the home life must have that “typical family woman” who is by their side to weather the storms in their careers. Definitely not a woman who “breaths, talks and sleeps” their work while acknowledging it is a trifle selfish and acknowledging that most marriages work because the women rarely screw up but fail because men are “assholes for wanting more” (no elaboration) eventually.

Besides the issue of education that will continue to plague the developed world, for educated career women (who contribute much more to the economy) have been correlated to falling birthrates, let us examine the other reasons.

For happy couples, the gig economy is partly to blame. How can folks commit to family and children in contract jobs with no career prospects, income stream, health insurance and retirement savings? The gig economy trend has only just taken off but is also set to dominate economies as massive technological disruptions continue to overwhelm society; many jobs of the future do not exist today and the young living in a world of transition, fraught with uncertainty, adopt a YOLO mentality as a defence.

You Only Live Once or YOLO cannot be seen as a “snowflake/strawberry” generation excuse for their lack of interest in work and family life. We would argue it is their best way of adaption to a changing and harsh landscape of work and the cost of living.

– 87% of millennials and Gen Zers say child-care costs affect their decision to have kids; CNBC

– Home prices deter Chinese couples from having second child, survey finds; SCMP

– Women Are Deciding Not to Have Babies Because of the Pandemic. And that’s bad for all of us; TIME

We counted six new dogs for one new baby in our social circles last year. Pets are the in-thing for the YOLO lifestyle and to our surprise, the three millennial couples we spoke to with pet dogs argue that it is not a substitute for children and they would view pet ownership separately from the decision to have a child, which has crossed their minds before going on to list the reasons above as the deterrence.

It is true because we asked the mother of the 20-year-old to give a rough tabulation of the cost of bringing him up and legacy planning and all that, and we got a blank glaze or perhaps it was a death stare.

Now there are other reasons like changing family values. Societies used to place a high value on parenthood but now we have celebrities parading their pet dogs on the Emmy awards, proclaiming pansexuality as more adult Americans identify themselves as L.G.B.T., and we present, the world’s longest and most comprehensive yet acronym used to describe human sexual orientations and gender identities.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Curious, Asexual, Pansexual, Gender Nonconforming, Gender-Fluid, Non-Binary, Androgynous. Google for yourself, please.

It is unclear if all this can be correlated to declining birth rates because there is not a lot of literature out there on the matter although changing family values is a definite trend.

We would also not be prone to speculate if this can somehow be correlated to the findings of scientists that endocrine-disrupting chemicals maybe the problem of falling sperm count and declining egg quality causing genital anomalies and a range of other ailments which may become a threat to human survival.

Finally, we also have the other controversial matter that is plaguing society in this current age of social media: the issue of mental illness, which is definitely not conducive to the idea of having babies particularly when the young are affected.

Be it due to peer pressure, isolation, bullying, financial distress, depression, loneliness and the list grows in this transitory age of technological disruptions.

– Japan suffers rise in female suicides during Covid-19 pandemic. FT

– Self-Harm Claims Among U.S. Teenagers Increased 99% During Pandemic, Study Finds; Forbes

– A pandemic is hard enough. For some, being single has made it harder; NYTimes

– In Dec 2020 40% of US adults self reported symptoms consistent with depressive or anxiety disorder! Up from 11% in Jan-June 2019.

– ‘Shocking’ numbers of children presenting with mental health issues in Australia; Sydney Morning Herald

– Japan appoints ‘minister of loneliness’ to help people home alone; Nikkei Asia

We cannot list every single article we have read over the years or even bring up another side effect that appears to be taking root amongst the Greta generation—not to have children because of climate change but there is a good book on why a generation is choosing to be child-free.

Our Big Idea and Food for Thought

We would not dream of writing such a dreary post on International Women’s Day without leaving with some ideas (with the potential for profits).

There are women who choose to have babies. In fact, we heard of a case of a single lady who visited a sperm bank abroad and was so pleased with her child that she went on to get a sibling for her from the same donor.

Unfortunately, the guidelines in Singapore only permit couples to have access to donor sperm and eggs, favouring the family unit over singles (which is not to stop anybody affluent enough to go abroad although the idea still remains largely taboo in our society).

Yet this global trend is not about to evaporate as the NYTimes reports that the taboo around sperm donations is evaporating and sperm banks around the world are running dry from too much demand and “breaking records for sales since June 2020 worldwide not just in the U.S. … England, Australia and Canada.”

Business Insider reports that the sperm bank industry will be worth $4.5 billion by 2027 with China remain among the fastest-growing even as societies struggle with accepting such new norms.

Let everybody who wants a child have one for goodness sake and as for the men, make available the resources for surrogacy as well as we embrace changing in family values in this day and age of disruption.

We cannot suggest any useful solutions for all the other issues and more that we listed above to blame for the dearth of babies, short of taking pages out of A Brave New World or The Handmaid’s Tale, both set in a certain dystopia which we are beginning to increasingly identify with these days.

Happy 三八妇女节, as they say in China.

A tribute to all the ordinary women; the ladies who run coffee and chicken rice stalls in Whampoa market, the single mothers, the singles, the harassed mothers, grandmothers and godmothers and the wives, sisters, daughters and the fathers with daughters.