Working till Death

Working till Death

With an increasing percentage of Singapore’s population aging, there is one rising issue that has plagued our media often in the past few years: elderly poverty. Growing ever more visible we often see the elderly cleaning tables at hawker centers and pushing heavy carts of cardboard along the roads. Going out to eat how often have you turned to say “Thank you auntie/uncle” and the one clearing your table for you is a person of your grandparent’s age?

Much noise has been made in the media about the elderly having to do such back breaking jobs, that often earn them just the bare minimum to survive, but those are just the ones we see. There are elderly that don’t even have a stable income to take home and every dollar they get is only able to survive them on a day to day basis.

The government has created various schemes aimed to help these elderly such as Silver Support and many others. There is no lack of new schemes for them but too many are highly targeted with very specific criteria to fulfill. An example of this is the requirement of not having children to support them, but what about those are estranged with their children and not in touch with them. They still lack any support from family and yet may face issues applying for these schemes due to the system showing records of their children. An old woman that works only part-time be it due to ill-health or having to take care of a bedridden relative, would still not qualify for the workfare supplement scheme because of her shorter work hours. It is often the ones most at risk that fall through the cracks.

It is not just those that are not on good ties with their family but the many others who don’t have a family. With a growing number of youths indicating a lack of interest in getting married in a recent survey by National Youth Council, it’s not a far jump to imagine we will have a higher percentage of elderly without family support in the future.  It is estimated that by 2030, just slightly over a decade from now, there will be only 2.1 working-age citizens for each one aged 65 and above, compared to around 5.4 currently. What are we to do when many grow old and have no family left to support them in their old age?

Even those that have a family and a comfortable nest egg stowed away have to be weary. Should a serious illness like cancer strike, not only might you lose your family, but your savings and Medisave could be wiped out too. So this leaves everyone with at least some risk of elderly poverty in the possible future, and with many gaps in our system, how safe does that make you feel?

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