Worried that a low birth rate could threaten the country's very survival Singapore's government is playing Cupid, using Valentine's Day to promote romance and marriage.
In a city where many singles say they are too busy making money to make love, the government plans to step up its official "Romancing Singapore" campaign on Thursday, the traditional lovers' day, to encourage people to take up dating.
AdvertisementThe campaign, launched in 2002 and managed commercially by the private sector since 2005, has lined up a series of events throughout February and on Valentine's Day itself to try to reverse the falling birthrate.
And a separate initiative sees the government directly funding efforts to promote romance.
In 2006 it launched the one-million-Singapore-dollar (704,000 US) Partner Connection Fund to support dating agencies that come up with what it called new "social interaction opportunities" for singles.
"A lot of countries, they let nature take its course but in Singapore because of our work and lifestyle, we don't have a lot of time," said Andrew Chow, a manager with Romancing Singapore.
"We are trying to educate the singles that dating is in fact a lifestyle. I think nowhere else in the world does things like Singapore."
Among the events Romancing Singapore has planned to give Cupid a helping hand is an evening date on the newly-opened Singapore Flyer, the world's tallest observation wheel at 42 storeys high.
The Valentine's Day event, billed as "Love In A Capsule," is organised by Romancing Singapore and Clique Wise, another social networking outfit.
From movie marathons, Friday night shopping sprees and treasure hunts, Romancing Singapore says it has tapped more than 5,000 singles to participate in previous events.
Love comes at a price, though -- a date on the Singapore Flyer costs 140 US dollars, which includes a gourmet dinner at a spa resort. All 24 slots have been booked, said Chow.
Violet Lim, co-founder of dating agency Lunch Actually, agreed Singapore's fast-paced lifestyle has made it hard for couples to connect.
"We play the role of an introducer," she said. "A lot of people who join us, they are not exactly people who can't find dates on their own. I would say it's more due to their schedules."
A subsidiary of Lunch Actually, Eteract.com, received funding from the government's Partner Connection Fund for its online dating platform.
The platform allows singles to get acquainted by chatting and even playing games in cyberspace, said Lim, adding the identities of participants have been verified.
The number of babies born per woman in Singapore fell to an historic low of 1.24 in 2004 and 2005, far below the rate of 2.1 needed for the population to replenish itself, the government has said.
This shortage prompted authorities to offer cash incentives for couples having more than two children, encourage foreigners to adopt citizenship, and ease up on previously taboo subjects like sex.
"We have managed to reverse the decline in births, but only barely," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a message on the eve of Lunar New Year earlier this month.
"Last year we only had 37,000 resident births, just 2,000 more than in 2004."
Lee said that ultimately the issue is not just about financial incentives but other factors including "social attitudes".
Singapore had a population of 4,588,600 last year but about one million of those were non-resident foreigners, official statistics show.
Perhaps among those numbers lies the partner Joyce Tia is seeking.
Tia, a group financial controller in her thirties, will join a dinner date organised by Ideas and Concepts dating agency on the eve of Valentine's Day.
"I am looking for a long-term relationship so having the dating agency to provide me the background of the person is good," said Tia.
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