I was born a year before the Dragon babies and boy, have they been a thorn in my side.
I’m no economist or social analyst but what I intend to convey is that the traditional Chinese belief that certain Zodiac signs are better or worse is total hogwash. I’m even going so far as to say that it might result in negative effects for your child.
The Dragon in the Chinese zodiac is affiliated with wealth and success. The Dragon, which is the fifth in the wheel of animals, is considered both noble and ferocious, leading many traditional diehards to believe that a person born in this year assumes such traits.
Dragon babies, as some of you might know, are a generational boom in Asian countries that observe the Lunar Calendar. The Dragon zodiac is an auspicious one and many traditional Chinese believe this to be beneficial to a person’s luck and character.
In 1988, Singapore was a growing nation, pushing into the 90s with a growing GDP and rising economy after the economic disaster in 1985. It was a ripe time to be having kids and the zodiac presented even better reasons to have one.
The birth rate in Singapore had been on a slow decline since we secured Independence from Malaysia. We were having silly amounts of children back in the day, and you may ascertain this by counting the amount of aunties and uncles you have.
The fertility rate dropped from 4.66 in 1965 to 1.43 in 1986. As mentioned, in 1986, Singapore was recovering from a recession. Come 1987, the fertility rate had gone up to 1.62 babies per female in Singapore.
Things were getting healthier, then the Dragon came and we had 1.92 babies per female in Singapore. Discounting the ridiculous numbers we had when we still lived in kampungs, this number still stands as a record till today.
The Road Ahead
As a population, we haven’t had more babies in recent years as we had in 1988. Today, those born in 1988 would be 29 years of age. And these Dragon Kids come in large cohorts. So much so that there was once a lack of schools in Singapore to cater to all of them.
Now we see schools from Primary to Tertiary starting to merge because of the lack of students. The Dragon babies aren’t to blame for any of that, however it did spark a mini surge in our baby shy nation. That eventually led to a harder time in finding university placements.
There were mitigating factors to prevent this bottle-necking. Factors such as the difference in years it takes to get a tertiary education depending on whether you’re a Polytechnic or JC graduate (thus providing a small relief).
Males too had to serve NS, leaving their female counterparts with yet more breathing room. However, you should take into account that this was a large cohort that were competing for limited spots in local universities.
The Finance Route
This ultimately led to the trend of so many enrolling in SIM. I would bet that everyone had at least five friends from SIM taking some sort of finance-related degree from the University of London (UOL). Of the five, how many are actually in a capacity they imagined they’d be?
There were only 14,700 places allocated to local students for local universities, NUS, NTU and SMU in 2008.
Junior Colleges mostly house students who see themselves furthering their education in a University, and almost everyone was fighting for a place in one of the three local universities. But bear in mind, there were 11,800 Dragon applicants from Polytechnics alone.
Now how many of these Dragon Parents had a contingency plan for all this? I’d never know. What I do know is that it led to a sudden lack of belief. Belief that if I study hard enough I’d get a place in a local university, and belief that Dragon Babies are blessed.
The spillover was pretty clear – not everyone had a place in the university of their choice. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re meant for a life of misfortune though, as every night has its dawn and there are various avenues to success.
Yet there were still more hurdles upon graduation. Job hunting became a challenge, not in a sense that we had extreme unemployment issues. However there was a surge of banker types, and despite there being many facets to the financial industry, not everyone squeezed through the doors.
Of Those Who Did
How many graduates imagined themselves standing in a heartland bank waiting on customers at the door? I’m pretty sure not many believed this was the fate awaiting them, not after nights pouring over multiple case studies and textbooks.
In some ways I feel that the spillover caused by the Dragon Baby generation sort of led to an image of a soft Strawberry Generation in Singapore. Dragon Babies had to be competitive to succeed and Strawberry types to most probably looked like they lacked the same bite.
It’s all one big chain of events, and although the 1988 fertility rate still hasn’t been beat, there are still more babies being born in Dragon years then there are in others. Which does go to show that traditions die hard.
Are you a Dragon Kid? How’s it going?