News @ AsiaOne

A soft Y generation?

Is a strawberry generation emerging in Singapore? - TNP
Geraldine Mark and Lim Yufan

Wed, May 16, 2012
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - They are big in Japan, growing in Taiwan but are there strawberries here too? Not the fruit, but young people who are just as soft.

In Japan, the post-1980s children are referred to as freeters (a possible shortening of the word freeloader). In Taiwan, they are known as the strawberry generation.

Here, they're simply tagged as Gen Y.

But whatever they're called, they share common traits - they are spoilt, insubordinate, sluggish at work, apathetic, still live with and sponge off their parents and cannot stand hardship. Oh, and they're really soft.

Then-Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, said in 2010 that if not for National Service, we might already have a strawberry generation like Taiwan.

They don't play rugged outdoor games and instead spend their time on the computer. He added then that these young people tend to interact via social media like Facebook instead of communicating face-to-face.

But Gen Yers beg to differ. Miss Acelyn Ong, 24, is one who doesn't think she's a strawberry. Yes, she earns a few thousand dollars per month and does not give her parents any money. Sure, her father's still paying her telephone bills. She's also living with her parents in a five-room flat, together with a 25-year-old sister who is still studying.

But hey, Miss Ong, who graduated from Singapore Management University two years ago, runs a blogshop.

"I've wanted to give my parents money, but they rejected it and told me they have enough," says Miss Ong, whose blogshop Chaceylove sells ladies apparel.

"In fact, my dad still offers to give me money, which I have rejected so far."

By that she means an allowance. Her father used to offer her $800 to $1,000 on top of what she earns.

Not soft? Please, say some parents, who also blame themselves. Mr Ronald Phoa, 65, a father of three, says: "I don't think the kids are aware of what their parents go through to give their children a comfortable life."

His son, an NSF and part-time student, still lives with him.

So are his own children soft?

He says: "Definitely softer than the previous generation. Sometimes, my children tend to rely on me also, but as their father, I tend to give in too."

Madam Lee Li Li, 74, agrees that parents contribute to mushy children. "Maybe the older generations are tougher because children were often left to fend for themselves back then when families were bigger."

However, the grandmother of four children aged from 19 to 24 says: "I feel there isn't anything wrong with helping your children out a bit in the early stages of their careers."

So true, says Mr Aroon Sukumar, a final year student at Nanyang Technological University. "If the parents are always there to take care of the child's problems, then the children would always rely on their parents to handle their conflicts," he says.

The 25-year-old is looking for a place to rent so he can move out after he graduates. He is living with his grandparents.

So are the post-1980s children strawberries?

Prof Tan Ern Ser, an associate professor of sociology in National University of Singapore, is not so sure.

"I have come across many enterprising young people who are highly motivated and energised. There are obviously also the unmotivated ones, but (I don't think) they represent Gen Y," said Dr Tan. Anyway, it is normal to live with parents until marriage in Singapore, he said. He says: "Since households now are quite small, it is not surprising that even when married, a child might still live with his or her parents."

But what about work?

Here, people under 35 tend to switch jobs five to six times before settling down in one, says Mr David Ang, executive director of Singapore Human Resources Institute. Mr Ang has had feedback from employers who have said that many young workers are "soft" and cannot withstand hardship.

But he added: "The older generations will always say that the younger ones are getting soft."

So, maybe they're not strawberries. They just need the right motivation. Dr Tan said that when children do not achieve success, they end up retreating to the comfortable lifestyles that their parents can give to them.

He added: "We just need to provide the right encouragement and affirmation. People are motivated when they have meaningful things to do, and reasonable goals to achieve. "Help them discover their potential, and affirm them along the way."

So maybe what we have here are not strawberries but youths who live by a misguided notion of success.

Perhaps what they need is confidence and some encouragement - to venture out of their comfort zones and become useful members of society in their own ways.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

 
 
 
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