Thursday, December 09, 2004

Perspective, please 

Mc Dermott joins in the Singapore baby debate by speaking up for the overworked Singaporean.

‘Too tired for sex’
Surely all business corporations large and small should be ‘forced’ by law to ensure the future population of Singapore. Fewer working hours, longer maternity leave and paternity leave. Paid overtime to ensure that more people can afford to have a child would be a good start.... A correlation between long hours and lack of sex drive doesn’t take a genius to see.

However the following [Sunday Times] article begins, in the title, to draw this correlation then promptly drops it in favour of arguing that it is the career goals and social status aspirations of individuals that result in poor sex drives and poor birth rate... The poor birth rate is correlated with un-caring business practices, not the ‘greedy Singaporean individual or couple’ that the article from the Sunday Times argues...
But Mc Dermott might have been a bit too harsh on The Sunday Times. In the original article in The Sunday Times, the newspaper actually concluded by citing the views of a sociologist:

But as sociologist Paulin Straughan noted, this comes from the Government’s constant exhortations on the need to strive for excellence and plan for the future. It’s the little things that matter, she said. For instance, the recent change in the academic calendar at five polytechnics has scuttled traditional holiday plans for many families... “There is now a lot of hype about family time, and yet one little change like this has made it impossible for many families to spend time together,” she said. “Contemporary parents, unlike previous generations who view children as an economic net, get no tangible rewards. Let’s not make it even more difficult for them.”
Aside from that, I agree with Mc Dermott: There is more that employers — and possibly the government — can do. In fact, this is a theme which I had explored before, most recently in “What working women want”.

Incidentally, the tendency to blame the individual isn’t restricted to this situation. An example which I had brought up previously: When a recruitment firm found that employees did not communicate sufficiently with their employers before quitting, the firm simply blamed the employees (see “Singapore workers quick to quit over glass ceilings”).

Similarly, the chronically unemployed used to be blamed for having unrealistically high expectations. Little attention was given to individual circumstances. However, in the face of persistently high unemployment in Singapore, this habit is gradually diminishing as people — most notably the Singapore government — have been forced to acknowledge the important roles of employer attitude and the structure of the economy.

At the end of the day, the underlying syndrome in all these cases is the failure to take the perspective of the individual — and to extend it generally, the failure to take the perspective of other parties. With many of society’s problems so complex and multi-faceted, decision makers who are responsible for coming up with solutions to such problems must look at them from a wide variety of perspectives.

And that includes reading more blogs like this one and Singabloodypore.


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