You don't need much space to have sex: Josephine Teo on ‘no flat, no child’ belief

Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

You do not need much space to have sex.

That was the feisty rejoinder from Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division, to a question on whether young people are not getting their flats early enough to have children.

The suggestion was that this could be a chicken-and-egg problem. To qualify for the Parenthood Priority Scheme, which gives first- time married couples first dibs on getting a flat, they must be expecting or have a citizen child below 16.

But to have a child, some say they need to have a flat first.

With a straight face, Mrs Teo declared: "You need a very small space to have sex."

Known for her candid blog posts on dating and marriage, Mrs Teo does not mince her words - think "menstruation" and "cysts" - when it comes to urging young people to look for love and settle down early.

In an interview on marriage and parenthood issues last week, the mother of three teenage children tackled issues ranging from infertility to why the Government should not be "too kaypoh" (Hokkien for busybody).

She noted that the Singaporean love story has a different arc from that of countries in the West. "In our case, man meets woman, man falls in love with woman, man proposes to woman, they then plan the wedding and do the house," she said.

"In France, in the UK, in the Nordic countries, man meets woman, tonight they can make a baby already. They love each other. Both of them partly have their own family, so it is a matter of living in yours or living in mine, and they also don't have to worry about marriage - that comes later," she added.

So how about having a couple declare that they wish to have a child in two years and get the flat first?

  • Measures being considered to coax couples to marry and have babies

  • Housing

    •Reduce the wait for Build-To-Order Housing Board flats


    •Increase childcare spaces to two for every three children

    •Look for suitable spaces in buildings, such as underutilised carparks, that can be converted into childcare centres

    •Attract childcare teachers through better pay and career planning, and elevate their social status to that of school teachers

    Caring for babies at home

    •Match local nannies to those who need them

    •Train maids to look after babies

    At the workplace

    •Get employers to offer flexible work arrangements and promote work-life balance, with the Government taking the lead as an employer

"What if they can't conceive? Take back the flat from them? How do you know they really tried to conceive? Can we check whether they use contraceptives? Cannot, right?" she replied, amused.

Instead of having the Government poke its nose into the bedroom, Mrs Teo relied instead on persuasion. She urged women to have babies early as they would not know if they are fertile or not.

"You never really know that you're not fertile until you try. Unfortunately, it is one of those things. There is no fertility indicator. As a woman you will know, if you have regular menstruation, okay, (there is a) likelihood. But maybe you have a major cyst and how would you know until you attempt to conceive, only to realise that you can't?"

The search for love is also not something to be left to chance, she said. "When I meet young people and ask if they go and look for upgrading opportunities, they said 'yes'. I said, 'What about love? Do you go and look for love?' They said 'no'. I said, 'Why not?' They said, 'If it happens, it happens'.

"I said, 'You don't think that upgrading and a good job, if it happens it happens, right? So why is it that you would apply that thinking to your career and your own education, but you don't apply it to your personal life?' "

However, the minister was quick to point out that there is a need to respect personal choice when it comes to marriage and children.

She said: "In this day and age, it is not possible for us to say that you are somehow bad, you are not doing your part for society.

"No, there are many reasons why people remain single. Sometimes, (for) very good reasons. Why should we pass judgment on them?"

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline You don't need much space to have sex: Josephine Teo on ‘no flat, no child’ belief. Subscribe