Singapore woos singles in latest dating campaign

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Singapore is launching yet another campaign to promote dating among its notoriously love-shy singles as the city-state grapples with low marriage and birth rates.

The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) issued a tender this month through the government's official procurement website calling for proposals on how to encourage singles to date.

"This tender is called to engage a communications agency to conceptualise, plan and implement a public communications campaign to promote dating," said a notice on the site.

No details of the tender were given in the notice but the Straits Times newspaper said the winner will produce a television commercial to promote dating and draw up a "unique dating concept" to get singles to interact.

Targeted at people aged 20 to 35 who do not date, the initiative is the latest effort by the government to act as matchmaker for its loveless singles population.

It comes amid falling marriage and fertility rates in the tiny but affluent island-state with a population of about five million, more than one million of whom are foreigners.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in February urged citizens to ignore superstitions about the Chinese zodiac and make more babies during the Year of the Tiger, which began in February.

Lee said he was particularly worried about ethnic Chinese couples who choose to hold back from having babies during Tiger years because of a superstition that children born during the period will have the animal's fierce attributes.

Singapore's fertility rate dipped to its lowest level ever at 1.23 babies per woman in 2009, down from 1.28 in 2008 and well below the 2.1 replacement rate needed for a stable population, he said.

The marriage rate hit 6.6 marriages per 1,000 residents in 2009, down from 7.8 in 1999, the Straits Times said, citing government statistics.

A fresh university graduate reacted coolly to the latest campaign.

"I think it's a bit silly," Koh Hoon Kiat, 25, told AFP.

Asked if a television commercial would prompt him to find a date, he said: "I'm not at a very desperate stage yet."

Previous government attempts to heat up romance and encourage couples to make more babies have so far failed to reverse the falling birth rates.

A campaign dubbed "Romancing Singapore" involved month-long carnivals to celebrate love, and another initiative called "Beautifully Imperfect" carried the message of loving one's partner despite imperfections.

Singapore, which has a reputation as a nanny state that interferes in citizens' private lives, regularly carries out campaigns to instill discipline, promote courtesy and discourage the use of broken English.

Other initiatives included a campaign urging wedding guests to arrive on time and rating public toilets for cleanliness.

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