Two members of our research team, Ng Kok Hoe and Teo You Yenn, were interviewed by The Edge Singapore, sharing their thoughts on future policy directions to help people in Singapore meet their needs.
We have a new opinion piece (paywall) in The Straits Times today, by research team members Neo Yu Wei and Ad Maulod, examining how the definition of a basic standard in living developed by participants in our research reflected Singaporeans’ values relating to cultural diversity–and how they translated this practically and concretely into the household budgets that emerged:
Researchers in other countries have conducted similar research on minimum household budget standards, such as in the United Kingdom, Japan, Mexico, South Africa. However, only in Singapore did participants include the choice and freedom to engage in “one’s cultural and religious practices” as a key basic need. This underlies the importance participants place on being a member of their cultural community.
In discussing how to translate this definition into everyday practice, participants who come from diverse ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds, took time to hear different views expressed, acknowledge the importance of different practices, before finding ways to agree on common and shared needs for every older person in Singapore.
‘A budget standard for everyone in a diverse society‘ by Neo Yu Wei and Ad Maulod (The Straits Times, 28 June 2019)
A key aim in the MIS approach is to translate needs which may initially appear abstract — needs for independence or connection, for example — into concrete things which can be clearly and explicitly budgeted for.‘S$1,379 a month needed for basic needs? This is how Singapore’s seniors agree on this baseline‘ by Teo You Yenn and Ng Kok Hoe (TODAYonline, 4 June 2019)
The oft-repeated cliché that “money cannot buy happiness” may well be true in its most literal and simplistic conception, but our participants’ deliberations demonstrated that there are many concrete and material things — which require specific sums of money — that are needed to meet people’s needs.
While these material things cannot guarantee anything as subjective as “happiness”, they are deeply connected to well-being and important preconditions to happiness.
We also know that current older workers are paid low wages, with two-thirds employed as cleaners, labourers and related workers, and categorised in the three lowest-paying occupational categories. They are paid less than the sum required for a basic standard of living, if we take $1,379 as the benchmark.‘Helping the elderly thrive is good for Singapore as a community‘ by Kanwaljit Soin (The Straits Times, 4 June 2019)
Needy Singapore citizens and permanent residents who are unable to work due to old age, illness, disability or unfavourable family circumstances, have been recipients of what is known as the Public Assistance Scheme and now called the ComCare Long-Term Assistance scheme.
The sum given per month for many years was about $500 and below, and finally increased to $600 per person this year, with two-person households getting $1,000.
Looking at CPF and retirement schemes shows there are real shortfalls in achieving the MIS through these routes.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo revealed in Parliament in February that nearly three-quarters of those getting monthly payouts from the CPF Life Scheme or Retirement Sum Scheme receive less than $500 a month, while average monthly payouts for those between 70 and 79 was just $290.
Only 268,000 people were receiving these payments. The number of people over 65 is more than half a million, and so the remainder was left out of these two schemes.
There were also several reports on the weekend:
- ‘$1,379 a month for retirement in Singapore: Too much or too little?‘ by Yuen Sin (The Straits Times, 2 June 2019)
- ‘Worries over retirement income‘ by Tan Ee Lyn (The Straits Times, 2 June 2019)
We’re very glad that Channel 8 hosted this in-depth segment discussing our report! Notably, it includes some vox pops segments with older people expressing their views on the sufficiency of the $1,379 sum. Note: video is in Mandarin only.
We’re very pleased to see that the discussion on how to meet the needs of older people is continuing — and deepening!
“It doesn’t mean that once I reach 60 years old, I become a different person; I stay at home and eat porridge and face the four walls.”‘How much is enough? Social workers and financial experts weigh in on meeting seniors’ basic needs‘ by Janice Lim (TODAYonline, 26 May 2019)
Throughout his presentation, Dr Ng repeatedly emphasised how participants were plagued by a pervading sense of anxiety. Many of them were extremely conscious of how old age is usually accompanied by declining health and consequently higher costs of healthcare. The sentiment of not wanting to feel like “a burden” to their families was a common thread as well.‘Basic Living Needs for the Elderly Include Smartphones and An Annual Holiday. So What?‘ by Ethel Pang (Rice Media, 26 May 2019)
- ‘Thriving, not surviving: What Singapore’s seniors want for a quality life‘ by Faris Mohktar (TODAYonline, 26 May 2019)
- Videos of Ng Kok Hoe’s presentation and the subsequent Q&A session on 22 May 2019, thanks to our colleagues at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
We’re really pleased to see lots of coverage and discussion of our report. In addition to the below articles, Ng Kok Hoe was on 95.8FM yesterday evening (flexing his Mandarin skills!) to discuss the findings and their implications.
- ‘How much does a Singapore household need for a basic standard of living?‘ (Global-is-Asian, 24 May 2019)
- ‘Elderly Singaporeans need $1,379 each months for basic living needs: study‘ (Coconuts Singapore, 23 May 2019)
- ‘调查：年满65岁 单身年长者每月基本开销需1379元‘ by 胡洁梅 (联合早报, 23 May 2019)
Have we missed out any articles? Comment and let us know!
In Singapore, many older people rely on contributions from their adult children. As an act of reciprocity and respect, support for elderly parents may be socially desirable. But in an ageing population, future elderly people will have fewer or no children, and it is unsustainable to depend on them as the main source of income.
With longer life expectancies, it is reasonable to expect longer years of work. Yet current older workers receive low wages. Many work primarily out of need and two thirds are employed in the three lowest-paying occupational categories. In 2017, “cleaners, labourers and related workers” received a median monthly work income of $1,200, less than the $1,379 required for a basic standard of living.
Read the full article here!
Thank you to everyone who came yesterday for our packed launch event! If you missed it, you can catch up on the Tweets in the threads listed here:
Here is a round up of news reports on the study that we’ve found. If we’ve missed any, do comment and let us know!
- ‘Elderly people in Singapore need $1,379 a month for basic living standards: Study‘ (Yahoo Singapore, 23 May 2019)
- ‘Singapore seniors each need at least S$1,380 monthly to meet basic needs: Study‘ by Janice Lim (TODAYonline, 23 May 2019)
‘Study finds $1,379 a month needed to meet basic living standard for single elderly Singaporeans‘ by Yuen Sin (The Straits Times, 22 May 2019)
‘$1,379 – that’s how much an elderly person needs to survive in the world’s most expensive city‘ by Kok Xing Hui (The Edge, 22 May 2019)
‘Elderly in Singapore need S$1,379 a month for basic needs: Study‘ (Channel News Asia, 22 May 2019)
Do also check out the second explainer video from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy!