Words of a Generation: Singapore

Guest post by Julia Wei, client director and consumer brand lead, Edelman Singapore. Watch the film series here

With Singapore’s National Day a week away, today we unveiled Words of a Generation – a series of intimate interviews featuring the personal observations and perspectives of 10 Singaporeans born in the 1970s on a diverse range of topics.

The ‘70s generation was the first generation born into Singapore as the economic powerhouse we know today. Their grandparents and parents lived through Singapore in its time as a British colony, the hardship of the Japanese occupation in World War II, the integration with and then breakaway from the Federation of Malaysia and, finally, when the nation gained its independence in 1965.

By the time the ‘70s generation came to be, Singapore had rapidly achieved its status as a world leader in shipping, air transport and oil refining. This was also the time when the Singapore government launched significant new population control initiatives such as the ‘Stop at Two’ campaign which incentivised families to have no more than two children. In the early 1980s, Singapore also introduced ability-based programmes in the education system such as ‘streaming’ in schools – where students were categorised into different groups according to their academic capabilities so that teaching could be done at a pace manageable to them – as well as the Gifted Education Programme, which was offered in select schools to develop intellectually gifted children to their top potential.

This truly was the generation that Singapore pinned its hopes for the future on and which would be groomed for every drop of its potential. This progress was further accelerated in their teens and early adult youth with the rise of the digital age. The 1970s generation was set up for success. And succeed they did. But at what cost?

In our interviews with these 10 participants from diverse backgrounds we explore their perspectives around the topics of Love, Work, Explore, Play, Consume, Dream and Connect – all of which provide honest and heartfelt insight into the joys and struggles of their childhood, their relationships as the ‘in between’ generation with their parents as well as their children, and moments where some of the ‘70s generation may have, quite frankly, ‘slipped through the cracks’ – in their own words.

I am thrilled by the results of this project and pleasantly surprised by the self-awareness and depth of the responses from our Singapore interviewees. The ‘70s generation continues to bridge gaps between the ages, strives to be adaptive and wants to work for change. A guinea pig for technology past, they even describe themselves as counselors for tomorrow.

The Singapore edition is the second of six installments of our Words of a Generation series – a research and short film project designed to provide a personal window into the lives of people who have lived through and are pushing rapid transformation in society. The series, which began in China with 28 people from China’s ‘70s generation, is expanding over the course of the year to document the personal stories and perspectives of 50 people from change generations in five additional countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

I’d like to thank David Brain and Cornelia Kunze for their senior direction and counsel on this project, Amanda Mooney – our strategic planner in Shanghai who produced the films, Jayga Rayn our talented filmmaker, Marion Yong – our irreplaceable researcher and production assistant and all our 10 wonderful interviewees who opened up their homes and their hearts to us.

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