updated 8 May 2012, 23:13
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Dragon babies don't have all the luck
by Rachel Chan

THE other day, my husband lamented over how "unlucky" our five- month-old son was to have been born in the Year of the Rabbit.

Did he wish that Asher - whose conception had been a complete surprise - was born in the Year of the Dragon instead? Quite the contrary, actually.

He said that Asher would have been better off had he been born under the Chinese zodiac signs of the Rat, Ox, Tiger or Snake - the zodiac signs least preferred by the Chinese in childbearing and marriage. But these babies - in theory, at least - have more demographic luck.

Now, I have absolutely no intention of putting down all the excited parents and parents-to-be of Dragon babies. I also wish to expressly state that I am not discouraging anyone from bearing children.

I am perfectly sure that everyone will agree that a complex mix of hereditary, environmental and socio-economic factors will determine whether a child eventually grows up to be an achiever.

But, like my husband, I believe that, if there is an especially good time for a baby to be born, it is not the Year of the Dragon. The fact that a surfeit of Dragon babies will cause a crunch in childcare and infant-care centres, schools and delivery wards does not seem to faze many.

What's more, Dragon babies will grow up to become adults vying for the same pool of housing and employment.

It is interesting to note that the resale prices of Housing Board flats started rising from 2002 onwards. This has often been attributed to demand outstriping supply, but has anyone thought - other than blaming permanent residents - that the 1976 Dragon babies could have contributed to the peak in demand?

By 2002, they were 26 years old - about the time when people start thinking about marriage. I believe that these Dragon adults conducted their house hunts over several years.

Last year, the total fertility rate increased slightly, from 1.15 in 2010 to 1.2, the unofficial reason being that the Year of the Rabbit is more auspicious than that of 2010's Tiger.

This year, the birth rate is expected to soar. Already, infant-care centres are beginning to fill up.

A friend, who will deliver in March, started shopping for infant care last October. The centre of her first choice placed her in 10th place on the waiting list for July enrolment. She settled for her second choice, which has confirmed a place for her baby.

Looking ahead, our workforce is becoming increasingly global. Singapore's Dragon babies will be up against those of China's when they're grown. If we are finding international competition to be hotting up now, what more 20 years down the road?

In explaining why it is advantageous to be born in a generation after a baby boom, writer Malcolm Gladwell quotes economist H. Scott Gordon in Outliers, a book about why some people attain more success than others. Mr Gordon made a notable point about the particular benefits of one being born during the demographic trough of the 1930s.

"When he opens his eyes for the first time, it is in a spacious hospital, well-appointed to serve the wave that preceded him. The staff are generous with their time, since they have little to do while they ride out the brief period until the next wave hits," he wrote.

"Then he hits the job market. The supply of new entrants is low and demand is high, because there is a large wave coming behind him providing a strong demand for the goods and services of his potential employers."

Mr Gladwell calls one who was born in such a perfect time - during a lull in birth rate - as having "demographic luck". Hence, by extrapolation, Dragons are less likely to have demographic luck than a Rat baby.

Personally, I just hope that my little Rabbit won't be washed up on shore by the huge wave of Dragons behind him when he gets out of school.

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