When asked, 31 year-old Singaporean arts business administrator Eric says that a good life in Singapore would mean “opportunities to explore my interests, good relationships with the people around me and to practise my faith.”

He added that these goals did not have anything to do with career advancement or material progress for Singapore, which is often trumpeted in the mainstream media.

In a media survey of 4,000 people, Eric is in the majority.

Asked to pick between a comfortable pace of life and career advancement, 59% chose the former. This rose to 62% among those married with children.

While the government has always assumed that young and single Singaporeans may prefer a faster pace, slowing down only when they start families, the survey showed that even those in the age groups of 15 to 19 and 20 to 34 mostly preferred having more to life than just material growth.

But this does not mean that younger Singaporeans just want to slack off and lack the grit of their parents’ generation. Eric explains that Singaporeans do constantly strive to be the best, but they are simply tired of being threatened by rhetoric of the “hard trade-offs” given to them by the government – between competitiveness and comfort, between stress and mediocrity.

“In a sense, we are top in so many fields and have done so well, but we are supposed to live with a perpetual sense of insecurity,” he says. “It wears people out in the long run. It’s not that we don’t want to pursue excellence, but that’s not the only thing we want to pursue.”

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