The Social Development Unit (SDU) was formed in January 1984 to encourage social interaction and marriage among graduate singles. The impetus for the establishment of the SDU stemmed from the findings of the 1980 population census. The results showed an increasing proportion of unmarried graduate women – a trend compounded by the preference among local men for women with lower educational qualifications than themselves, while graduate women preferred better-educated men. In his 1983 National Day Rally, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew commented on the phenomenon of well-educated women remaining single, and highlighted its implications on Singapore’s talent pool. He warned that the talent pool would be depleted unless better-educated Singaporeans married and had more children.
The SDU was established to correct the trend by providing opportunities for graduate men and women to meet through talks, courses, workshops, dances, parties, dinners, local outings and overseas trips as well as digital matchmaking services. In October 1984, nearly a year since the unit was started, then Minister for Finance and Trade and Industry Tony Tan reported in parliament that some 700 single men and women had joined the activities organised by the SDU.
To meet the increasing demand for such activities, the Social Development Section was set up in 1985 for singles holding “O” Level qualifications, followed by the Social Promotion Section in 1990 for singles who have not completed secondary education. Both entities, which were managed by the People’s Association, subsequently combined in 1995 to form the Social Development Service (SDS) to cater to all non-graduates.
In 2006, the SDU shed its matchmaking role and repositioned itself as an organisation that provided accreditation to dating agencies and professional matchmakers, as well as support and funding for initiatives that promote dating. In 2009, the SDS and SDU were merged and renamed the Social Development Network (SDN) so as to reap economies of scale, widen the dating pool and create more opportunities for singles to meet and eventually marry. Activities and services once exclusive to members were extended to all resident singles regardless of one’s level of education.
1. Social Development Unit. (1991). The need for social development in Singapore (p. 11). Singapore: The Author. Call no.: RSING 306.82095957 NEE.
2. Social Development Unit, 1991, pp. 3–4; 700 singles join social unit’s activities. (1984, October 23). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lee, K. Y. (2000). From third world to first: The Singapore story, 1965–2000: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (pp. 158–161). Singapore: Times Editions. Call no.: RSING 959.57092 LEE-[HIS]; When graduate doesn’t marry graduate… who will she marry? (1983, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Social Development Unit, 1991, p. 13.
5. The Straits Times, 23 Oct 1984, p. 1.
6. Tan, C. (1985, November 19). PA’s cupid will start work soon. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
7. Tan, C. (1990, March 29). New govt match-making agency gets 500 calls. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Matchmaking agencies merge. (1994, December 16). The New Paper, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Wong, T. (2006, November 18). SDU’s role as cupid comes to an end. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Social Development Network. (2011). About SDN. Retrieved November 17, 2014, from Social Development Network website: https://app.sdn.sg/AboutSDN.aspx
11. Ang, Y. Y. (2009, October 17). A name change, and matchmaker to all. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.