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every+one, Trends, Featured

Well-being: Do children have a balanced childhood in Singapore?

Through most of 2020, the circuit breaker pushed many Singaporean families to adopt home-based learning, bringing to the surface a host of challenges (balancing working from home while managing children’s schoolwork, limiting screen time, getting enough physical activity, etc.). Despite the difficulties, many saw this as an opportunity to change the way children’s days are structured, managed, and balanced. 

Our data shows that Singaporeans are ready to re-think the way children are pushed for excellence, especially if it means having a healthier balance between academic and non-academic successes. More than half (56%) of Singaporeans think too much time is spent on schoolwork. This sentiment has some notable demographic differences: it is highest for Boomers (65%), highest for women (60%), and lowest for higher-income households (48%). 

When it comes to non-school activities, Singaporean parents see the value of physical activities and sleep. Not only that, they generally walk the talk. 85% think that children need 1-3 hours of daily sports and outdoor play, and 81% actually set this time aside. Conversely, 82% of parents think their children need 8-10 hours of sleep per night, but only 56% respect this need. For exactly one in three Singaporeans (33%), their children have 6-7 hours of sleep per night.

These findings reveal two major discrepancies when it comes to balancing children’s schedules and activities. First, a lack of sleep that manifests despite knowing how much sleep a child should have per night. It is not surprise, then, that such behaviours carry into adulthood; Singapore is among the most sleep-deprived countries in the world. Second, marked socio-economic differences that influence the way families determine whether there is too much or not enough schoolwork. The higher the income bracket, the more schoolwork children are expected to be able to handle. Again, such expectations carry into adulthood and result in Singapore being one of the world’s most overworked but unproductive societies.

As our past research shows, work-life balance is becoming a vital part of young Singaporeans’ personal and professional goals. If Singapore is to compete with other knowledge-driven economies, it is high time that balanced lifestyles become the norm for adults as well as children.