March 30, 2007
SINGAPORE has awarded cash grants to four agencies with creative ideas on how to attract more young adults to the dating scene, and hopefully the wedding altar, as part of an effort to reverse the city-state's declining birth rate.
From online "speed-dating" - a popular technique where couples spend just a few minutes talking - to a concierge service that arranges flowers and movie tickets, the four companies were chosen out of 19 submissions for their novel ideas and proven management records.
A total of S$141,000 (US$93,000; €70,000) was awarded by the Partner Connection Fund on Thursday, Mar 29, to fund the plans.
"One common element in all four proposals is their strong understanding of the singles' lifestyle and their needs," Claire Chiang, co-chair of the evaluation panel, said in a statement announcing the successful bids. "The idea is to proliferate the dating culture and make it a natural social activity for all singles."
The companies were the first companies to be awarded grants under the S$1 million (US$659,000; €494,000) fund created by the government last November, after Singapore dissolved its state-run matchmaking service in favor of private sector firms that could inject more vibrancy into the dating industry. The successful businesses will be accredited and listed in a government database that can be accessed by single Singaporeans.
The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports said at the time that it wanted to help businesses tap into the "lucrative" matchmaking market, noting that there were 620,000 singles among Singapore's 4.5 million population.
The fund is seen as part of Singapore's newest move to promote marriage and childbirth in order to reverse the island state's declining birth rate. Last year, the Department of Statistics reported that the birth rate had fallen for the 28th consecutive year below the "replacement rate" needed to maintain the population, prompting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to urge married couples to have more children.
Matthew Tan, director of GoMovieDate.com, one of the grant recipients, said his company had been looking for funds to upgrade and personalize its services, including offering a link for the delivery of flowers or chocolates so couples can "complete the whole dating experience."
"This will then translate into more singles dating and also increase the chances of them finding their life partner," Tan was quoted as saying in a statement introducing the four companies.
The other recipients were: Eteract.com, online speed-dating for singles who are too shy or busy to meet in person; Singles Mingle, which offers networking events, group activities, Webcam-to-cam dating and even wedding planning; and Who Works Around You, which facilitates meetings between singles who work the same odd hours or in the same areas of the city.