Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baby Bonus Scheme

Our Baby Bonus Scheme is a marriage of heteronormativity and racism.

Once again in class, Singapore was brought up as an 'infamous' case study - this time, among demographers for our baby bonus policy. We were discussing Foucault's bio-politics, which is how the state controls bodies through population policy.

My professor brought up Serbia's (then Yugoslavia) population policy in the 80s, which encouraged people to have up to 3 children. The underlying intention was to increase the population of Serbs, who were having less than 3, and at the same time decrease the population of Bosnians, who usually had more than 3 children.

At first glance, the Baby Bonus Scheme seems to merely be an answer to Singapore's ageing population and low fertility rate (last measurement was 1.3 births per woman in 2008). Right? Have baby, get money - and up to SGD 6000 for the 3rd and 4th child. It's so simple, and seems so generous.

But this only applies to married couples. There are many single Malay mothers with up to 5 children, who do not see a single dollar of this scheme. Let's not talk about gay couples, but hypothetically, if same-sex marriages were allowed in Singapore, they're not going to get the Baby Bonus either.

Implicitly, what the state wants is more of the heterosexual married Chinese population (more industrious and hardworking, according to LKY's infamous eugenics policy), and less Malays and Indians. Since the Chinese are not much enticed by all this money, the state freely gives away permanent residency and citizenship to former citizens of China - the 75% proportion of Chinese to Others in Singapore must be maintained at all costs.

Something as innocuous as a population policy does have implications for those who are not part of dominant group in society.

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