SINGAPORE: An “honest conversation” is needed on how Singapore can prepare for millennial families, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo said in response to an online furore over her comment that couples need “a very small space to have sex”.
The remark, made during an interview with The Straits Times published on Wednesday (Oct 12), was to persuade Singaporean couples to try for children even if they have not settled into their own flat yet.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday night, Mrs Teo said that the report “might not have captured everything in the way I intended”.
“But in all seriousness, we need an honest conversation on how, as a society, we can get ready for Millennial families,” she said.
“Every way I turn, I see more of our Millennials boldly stepping up to overturn long-held assumptions about what #Singaporeans can and cannot achieve … With bold collective actions in the areas of housing, pre-school services, workplace and community support, we can give more Millennials the confidence that marriage and parenthood are Achievable, Enjoyable and Celebrated!”
Singapore has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, at 1.24 births per woman, according to data released by the National Population and Talent Division in September. Its population grew 1.3 per cent last year, with the number of citizens rising by just 1 per cent.
Mrs Teo’s “sex in small spaces” comment caused a stir on social media, with some blogs coming up with lists of the smallest places in Singapore which could fit the bill.
"Singaporeans are like birds, don't expect to have eggs when there is no nest to lay them," Facebook user Shawn Yang said.
Another Facebook user Derrick Poh said: "Not everyone has the luxury of depending on their parents to host them and a baby while the government takes three to four years to build a flat."
Women rights activists said such comments did little to tackle the cause of a low birth rate.
"It's clearly meant as a joke, (but it's) fallen a bit flat," Ms Jolene Tan, head of advocacy and research at the Association of Women for Action and Research told Reuters.
"There's still many barriers ... Many women still face discrimination at work. Working hours in Singapore are still (much) longer than many other civil advanced economies."