A modern day Alice in Wonderland wears a cropped t-shirt emblazoned with her ironic slogan YOLO ("You Only Live Once"). She smokes out of a convertible, its license plates reading “Live Fast.”
The moral for this cliched young girl?
“Extended adolescence of twentysomethings today has a biological cost for women,” reads a tagline. And another: “After 40, [fertility] drops 95 per cent.”
The image is one of 15 reprised fairytales the Singaporean government is banking on to boost fertility rates in the prized 21- to 30-year-old cohort. Although many couples in the West are also postponing marriage, Singapore in particular is facing extremely low birth rates in tandem with an aging population. And so the government has gone full hilt, funding speed-dating events, as well as “love vouchers” and silly advice columns in hopes that their young people will start procreating.
Dreamed up by four senior university students, there are 15 re-imagined fairytales in all, each with explicitly stated morals pertaining to marriage, sex and baby-making. Humpty Dumpty warns about male fertility issues. Others, like Jack and Jill and Cinderella, warn Singaporeans about the pitfalls of perfectionism – of young people foolishly hoping to conjure the ideal life before even considering children. The clock is ticking, read the cautionary tales, which are really just a cutesy, dumbed-down take on the ominous fables we all grew up with.
The stories are being handed out as leaflets on university campuses, but critics complain that the focus on breeding is outdated: “It’s an old-fashioned way of trying to solve this problem,” Corinna Lim of Singapore’s Association of Women for Action and Research, told The Guardian. “It’s going backwards when going forwards would be what Scandinavian countries are doing – making it easier for women to have babies and allowing men to take part [through paternity schemes], instead of pressuring women by saying they’re not married yet.”
On the right track, the Singaporean government recently passed a parenthood and fertility package that will, among other measures, offer fathers a week (!) of paternity leave and help fund assisted reproduction – probably better methods to land the golden egg than fairytale juvenilia.