Singapore uses ‘fairy tales’ to warn women of falling fertility

With her blond bob, convertible car, cigarette in hand and cropped top emblazoned with the letters YOLO (“You Only Live Once”), this is an Alice in Wonderland the world has not seen before. Like Lewis Carroll’s original, this cartoon Alice is curious about the world – “she gives up her cash to fly around rash” – but the moral here is that this twentysomething Singaporean is so busy being “wild and reckless” that she stands to lose her chance of starting a family.
Welcome to adult education in marriage and fertility, Singapore-style.

“Alice” is one of 15 fairytales revamped for a new government-backed scheme to encourage Singaporeans to get married and start having babies earlier. Faced with a rapidly ageing society, skyrocketing housing prices, low birth rates and a population that works the longest hours in the world, this country of 5.3 million people has made various attempts over the years to encourage its citizens to marry and procreate, from government-funded speed-dating schemes to educational flyers on how to flirt. Now, however, it is changing its tactics in search of a happy ending. Aimed at 21- to 30-year-olds, the “Singaporean Fairytale” was created by four final-year university students who wanted to “find an interesting way to connect with young adults … on what it takes to start, live and be a family in Singapore”, says the project manager, Chan Luo Er, 23.

“Fairytales are very accessible, as almost everyone grew up with a fairytale or two – our little poem on a woman’s declining fertility as she ages ties in quite nicely with the Golden Goose.”

The fairytales – which have been distributed by leaflet to universities around Singapore – include versions of Cinderella, the Three Little Pigs, Rapunzel and Snow White, each involving a reworked tale that relates to fertility, sex or marriage, and a resulting moral. The lesson with “careless” Alice, for example, is that “the extended adolescence of twentysomethings today has a biological cost for women” and the story ends with a stark warning: “After 40, [fertility] drops 95%.”

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Article: 22nd March www.guardian.co.uk

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