OLD AGE A BLESSING? NOT IN S'PORE
30 JUNE 2005
OLD AGE A BLESSING? NOT IN S'PORE
THERE is nothing more comforting than to be reminded that you were once
That once, you moved to the rhythm of music effortlessly; that once, you
were in love and could still feel what it is to be in love when you
listened to romantic melodies.
It is also empowering to find that one can be 69 or 70 and enjoy what one
enjoyed twenty, thirty or even forty years ago.
I realised this the night of the Engelbert Humperdinck concert.
It was one of those rare times I felt I was not the oldest in a crowd. I
saw familiar faces who were there to recall good old times that seemed to
be disappearing quickly.
We were all 20 once again.
Engelbert Humperdinck reminded us - if we needed reminding at all - that
life is not over yet for those of us in our 60s and 70s. Even if we may
look a bit worse for wear and our faculties compromise, or if we elapse
into "senior moments" now and then.
There he was on stage, a bit thicker in the middle, a bit broader in the
jowls, a bit stiffer in the joints. But with the same magic that had
captured audiences the world over for almost 40 years.
During the concert, for some reason I can't recall, Engelbert Humperdinck
mentioned social security and asked if we got pensions.
There was this very telling silence. Reality of life for the old put a
damper on the evening.
Life is difficult for older people in Singapore.
The Aware-Tsao Foundation report published recently concluded that "older
women are in a particularly vulnerable position in their later life
because of the lack of income over their lifetime, an old age income
security system the lack of an adequate and inclusive health care
financing mechanism that covers those not in formal employment, and a
family situation that can no longer sustain its care giving and providing
role for its older relatives."
The report adds that the responsibility to support the older population
goes beyond the immediate family.
The Government, the private sector and communities all have a role to play
to ensure that the older population feels valued and able to contribute.
For instance, the estate that I live in is undergoing upgrading. It is
costing many millions of public funds, no doubt.
Has it made the buildings wheelchair-friendly? No. In this supposedly
family-friendly society, is any consideration given to young mothers with
Sometimes, I wonder if one arm of government knows the policies being
promoted by the other arms.
I move between despair and exaltation when I think of my own old age. The
exaltation comes from imagining new visions, new states of personal
realisation emerging at this stage of my life.
But then, public policies in healthcare, housing, education and labour -
despite new initiatives being announced recently - seriously lag behind
the needs of a growing elderly population.
Health costs keep rising. There are few support systems. Nor is there
sufficient financial security - even with the CPF scheme intended,
ironically, for this purpose.
So, what will nourish the visions of ageing men and women like myself, who
want to live independent lives?
To say that taking care of the aged is the responsibility of the family is
to deny the state's responsibility to provide an environment that makes
life easier for an ageing population.
It is also a denial of the reality of life for those Singaporean families
which struggle to make ends meet.
One 84-year-old aunt I know has been praying for death for 10 years. Old
age has made her dependent on two daughters who have, she says, the
unhappy burden of looking after her.
Another 96-year-old aunt, hearty and mobile, has been shunted from son to
son for 10 years.
Old age is not a blessing. And even those of us who can afford to attend a
concert, can escape from the worries of ageing only for a moment.
The writer, a social activist and teacher, is a former president of Aware
--- MellanieHewlitt@y... wrote----------------------------------------
You can view it in the context of the entire discussion by going to:
Elderly more anxious about future
Latest HDB survey also shows half of those polled had no retirement
Tuesday June 21, 2005
Loh Chee Kong
SINGAPORE'S growing elderly population is feeling less well-off and
less optimistic about their future, according to the latest survey by
the Housing and Development Board (HDB).
Carried out in 2003, the Sample Household Survey covered 7,300
households across all HDB towns and estates. In the survey, which is
conducted every five years, "household" refers to a group of
persons who may or may not be related, living together in a unit.
The proportion of "elderly households" or households headed by
someone who is 65 years and above in HDB estates has increased from
9.2 per cent in 1998 to 10.7 per cent in 2003, with more elderly
living in older towns and estates like Bukit Merah, Queenstown and
More elderly persons from 14.7 per cent in 1998 to 21.1 per cent in
the latest study were also living alone.
While they were generally satisfied with their life, they were also
less optimistic about the near future. Only 15.2 per cent felt that
their lives would be better five years down the road, compared
to 29.7 per cent in the survey done five years before.
Among the various aspects of life they had to rate, they were least
satisfied with their health, their household income, medical services
and the cost of living all factors that they also rated as
being important to them.
What was worrying, though, is that despite their apparent concerns
about financial matters, half of the elderly surveyed had not planned
for their retirement. Many in this group said that they were
jobless and were more concerned with day-to-day living.
Significantly, while nine in 10 households across Singapore
classified themselves as middle class, elderly households seem to
have a poorer perception of themselves. In fact, one in five elderly
households saw themselves in the lower class of society.
Commenting on the sense of pessimism among his peers from various
income groups, 72-year-old Dr P N Avabhani, who lives in a 5-room HDB
flat with his mother and wife, said that they might have grown
more pessimistic because of the rising cost of living and longer life
"Many retirees' lifestyles are based on their income before
retirement. In reality, there is always room for pessimism but one
has to adjust to circumstances," he said.
Dr Yap Mui Teng, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy
Studies, who specialises in poverty alleviation policies and issues
relating to the elderly, said that this pessimism "may be a
reflection of the situation of family members on whom the current
generation of Singaporean elderly is highly dependent".
"The economic downturn may affect them indirectly through their
family members, even if the elderly themselves are not in the labour
market," she said.
"If this is true, then the economic situation particularly
regarding employment of the working population supporting the
elderly needs to be worked on."
You can view it in the context of the entire discussion by going to:
S'poreans conscious of need to save, but end up with little for their
golden years: Survey
February 25, 2005
COMPARED with other industrialised countries' citizens, Singaporeans
want to retire the earliest and are most active in saving up for the
future but still end up with one of the lowest retirement income
levels, according to a recent worldwide survey on retirement.
AXA Group, a major player in the field of financial protection, asked
9,200 working and retired people in 15 industrialised and newly-
industrialised nations last year for their views on retirement.
Countries surveyed included Australia, Canada, USA, Spain, Italy and
Asian representatives Hong Kong and Japan.
In Singapore, 296 working adults and 307 retirees, aged between 25
and 75 years old, were interviewed between October and November.
The study found that, on average, the ideal retirement age for
Singaporeans was 54 the youngest desired retirement age among the
15 countries. Those in Hong Kong, Canada and Australia opted for
retirement at the age of 55, while Japanese wanted to wait till they
A successful retirement, said AXA Singapore's executive vice-
president Lim Meng Tat, is "one in which you can continue to sustain
the lifestyle that you enjoyed pre-retirement".
Hence he said it was "crucial" that Singaporeans understand their
financial commitments to allow them to fund their future needs.
He added that the discrepancy between the effort put into saving by
Singaporeans and the amount of money that Singaporeans actually had
after their retirement was worrying.
Of those surveyed, Singaporeans seemed the most eager to prepare for
their post-retirement financial arrangements, with nine in 10
contributing to an insurance policy or a pension fund with their
employer, such as the through the Central Provident Fund. Four in
five contribute to savings plans, a proportion that outstrips that of
Yet the average retired Singaporean has among the lowest average
monthly retirement income among the 15 countries, at $1,692. Canada
ranked first with $4,216, with Hong Kong last at $1,177.
This average monthly income is marginally above the average household
expenditure of $1,592.
The study, however, did not take into account factors such as
different costs of living in these 15 countries.
Mr Lim also said it was startling to find that four in five working
Singaporeans did not know what their income level would be at
retirement, while 57 per cent of retired Singaporeans did not know
their average monthly income.
"Most people assume that they have sufficient retirement income but
are unable to quantify the amounts. Hence they are unprepared for the
financial liabilities," said Mr Lim.
"People need to be educated about their financial
20 Dec 2004
Can't Afford to Retire? That Means No Babies !!!
I was reading the article "Can you AFFORD to retire?" in the 18 Dec 2004 issue of the Straits Times and recalled that only just recently the government was renewing efforts to encourage Singaporeans to have more children.
Once again the severe myopia permeating the ranks of Singapore's million dollar cabinet ministers is baffling.
The issue of affordability of retirement and dwindling babies are related. If you cannot afford to retire then its also highly unlikely that you can afford to have babies.
Solve the earlier problem and you would be half way there in getting those much wanted babies. In fact this is nothing new and has been part of the evolutionary process for thousands of years. Many species will delay having off springs during periods of extended famine and draught and one does not need to be paid a million dollars to see that harsh reality.
Yet, contrary to thousands of years of evolutionary progress/precedent, this
government is telling you to have kids even when you cannot save enough to
look after yourself during your retirement years.
Singaporeans by and large are a hardworking, industrious, lot who live within
their means and are unquestioningly obedient to their overlords. In-spite of
deteriorating work conditions many still try hard to save enough for their
But its not that easy when decades of stingy fiscal and monetary policies have
sapped the average person's disposable income and retirement reserves. Only in
Singapore do you have the unholy situation where state reserves actually
blossom to grotesque portions even whilst personal savings dwindle and
personal incomes deteriorate. We end up with the state directly profiteering
from the very citizens it is supposed to look after!
To make matters worse, land prices have been artificially inflated for many
decades resulting in escalating costs of living.
Hang on, lets back track here. Was this not the same government who was
declaring to the world that Singapore has attained Swiss standards of living?
This government has asserted that;
a) Singaporean workers are better paid then their counterparts in the US, UK
b) That Singapore also has very competitive cost of living?
c) And Singaporeans also have one of the highest savings rates in the world?
How much of the above assertions are mere propaganda and how much is actual
fact? If you put a) b) and c) together it implies that the average Singaporean
should not be in the dire straits they are in now.
But the undeniable fact remains that Singapore today is no where near being
the Switzerland of the east. You may refer to the attached powerpoint file for
a full comparison between Singapore and Switzerland. The census figures show
many similiarities between the two maturing economies but the following
figures are glaring;
a) Singapore's unemployment rate of 4.8% is still higher than Switzerland's
b) The Singapore Government's reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold is approx
USD110.8 bn, much higher then Switzerland's USD69.6 bn.
c) Singapore's physical geographic area is only 692.7 km sq which is only
1.67% of Switzerland's 41,290 km sq
d) Singapore's population is at 4.3 mio as compared to Switzerland's 7.45 mio
e) Taking into consideration (b) and (c) above, Singapore's Military
Expenditure is USD4.47 bn p.a. (4.9% of GDP) as compared with Switzerland's
USD2.5 bn p.a. (1% of GDP).
There are massive indicative signs that confirm the postulate that a very
bloated state reserve is maintained at the direct expense of the personal well
being of private citizens. Military Expenditure is just one glaring area where
the Singapore Government spends more then 500% more to defend a land area less
then 2% the physical size of Switzerland.
We posed these issues on Delphiforums as discussion threads and have
incorporated feedback from various forum participants. More crucial
differences between Singapore and other developed countries was highlighted by
"Unlike Singapore, Switzerland, US and UK have the following;
A) UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. This is state funded. A Swiss who is unemployed for
the first year can still draw 80% of his original salary from the State in the
1st year. Of cause he has to show he has actively been looking for work;
B) From (A) there is some certainty of income and security. The state actually
looks after the aged and the unemployed. In sillipore its the citizens who
have to financially support the government, its GLCs and their mistakes.
C) There is CPF in Switzerland but the funds are managed in a clear and
transparent manner. There is no such shit where GLCs can dip their hands into
D) The Swiss and US and UK have a less bloated cabinet then Singapore. They do
not have to pay ministers USD1.1 mio a year to spin them propaganda;
E) Switzerland also spends less then 1/2 what Singapore spends (USD2.4bn as
opposed to USD4.2bn) on defence and this is to defend a land area and
population more then 7 times the size of Singapore;
F) Switzerland already have carved a niche in the following established global
industries: a) Private Banking b) Insurance and c) Chemicals/Health care and
d) Precision tooling and watches. What industry has our million dollar
ministers carved? The Biopolis? Pls don't make my toes laugh."
(You may view the full discussion thread at:
Are Singaporeans living with the mistakes of previous attempts by the
government at "social engineering" and playing God?
According to the latest estimates from the Straits Times article, if you
decide to retire at the age of say 60 and have a life expectancy of 80 years,
you would need at least SGD1 to 2 million in cold hard cash. Needless to say
this is beyond the means of most Singaporeans who earn an average mean/median
monthly household income of between SGD3,000 to SGD4,000/-.
That means that most Singaporevereans will face very bleak retirement years
with a substantive reduction in quality of life and standard of living. As one
forumer sums up:
"unless you have cold hard cash of at least SGD1-2mio at retirement, this is
what our twilight years will look like for most of us :
a) Downgrade from private transport to public transport. Imagine at age 60
running for bus or MRT;
b) Downgrade to 2-1 room HDB flat (also affectionately known by the locals as
"Pigeon Holes") assuming this is still affordable in 20-30 years time;
c) No holidays overseas and no clubs;
d) No entertainment. Entertainment is watching grass grow and a once a yr
visit from a PAP ministar.
e) No friends, not mobile, no credit card, no gym etc.
f) Food is bread & water, no restaurants no nothing.
g) And of cause NO KIDS and other long term liabilities we can't afford "
(You may view the full discussion thread at:
Singaporeans will be living hand to mouth in what are supposedly their golden
years. After spending all of their adult lifes working 12 hour work-days, they
will have barely enough to live out their sunset years at subsistence level.
Some may even face the undignified prospect of flipping burgers at Mac
Donald's to make ends meet.
And this is a situation the government is well aware of. Said MP Lily Neo:
"People are living longer, life expectancy is about 80. So if you retire at
62, you still have a long way to maintain yourself. The majority of people
don't have enough savings."
According to Dr Neo; "Medical costs will go up as new technologies and
medicines are developed. As you grow older, you'll have more medical needs
that will add to your expenses."
If this is the case, would lt not be morally and socially irresponsible for a
government to encourage its citizens to assume obligations and
responsibilities (of having children) that are beyond their financial
Why are they doing it? That's because Singapore's only real growth engine is
its population. And the government needs to see a growing mass population to
fuel its economic growth. This is strangely reminiscient of the scene in The
Matrix where humanity is reduced to the plight of a duracell battery.
Below was the sinister scenario potrayed by another forumer:
"Things have changed alot in singapore and not all the changes are positive.
The following is simple logic. We start on the premise (given by Lee Kuan Yew
himself) that Singapore has no natural resources.
The only resource it had 30-40 yrs back was man-power. So the govt could only
sell one thing and one thing only.....manpower to attract foreign investments.
Fast forward 3-4 decades later and little has changed. We still have only
manpower to selll and what's worse is the fact that other countries are fast
catching up in that area.
The only thing the PAP can think of is to keep the price of its only product
cheap. Make this place as attractive as possible for the MNCs but that also
means exploiting the labour market to its fullest. That means squeezing every
last drop of blood from workers (run those duracell batteries dry!!!)
This is a situation the PAP is quite happy with but there is one big kink.
They never foresaw the obvious eventuality that their pro MNC anti-labour
policies has made life so difficult for average workers that it has resulted
in a mass exodus of talent from the island and also a massive drop in birth
rates. In effect they are killing their only scarce resource.
The idiots were so oblivious to this development that 10-15 yrs back they even
had a stop at 2 policy and also the infamous Graduate Mother scheme policy.
The message to the masses; "If you do not have a degree please do not
contanminate the pure stock with inferior genes." Only graduates were fit to
have kids. And to this day this unholy idea has survived as we see the
distinction between SDU and SDS.
I can say with certainty that singaporeans (the intelligent ones) who plan
their future will have worked out the numbers for themselves and they know
they do not have enough to retire comfortably especially if they have kids. So
you will not see a reversal in the plumetting birth rates.
The PAP also realises it so they now look to foreign imports to make up the
shortfall. But who wants to move to a Disneyland with the death penalty where
you work 12 hour days in a sterile pressure cooker society where your every
move is monitored and controlled? Only the desperate cases.
If you had money and talent Singapore would be the last place you would move
to. Sure you may set-up a bucket shop office here to take advantage of the
cheap labour and even work here. But to live here personally, retire and call
this place your home? No Way. That's why most of the mega rich businessmen
still live even in Indonesia, China and even Thailand and of cause
Switzerland. All of these countries have a higher concentration of high
networth people then Singapore (and that includes Indonesia, Thailand and
China, supposedly lagging behind singapore).
So my final point is that there is no future for this island unless there is a
real change of policies (and government)."
Fortunately most levelheaded Singaporeans are able to see beyond the short
term incentives offered by Singapore's ruling party and many have questioned
the feasibility of raising a family on this expensive island in the sun.
Said another long time forumer:
" Singapore's mass media have always afforded us a very enthusiastic picture
of our future, especially via reporting of key messages from our leaders.
Is the picture really that beautiful? Civil servants getting big bonuses! Was
there a hidden agendum somewhere? Does that really assure us of the bright
horizon ahead? I really have my doubts.
Can Singapore really establish itself as a key hub? Even if it succeeds, how
long can that be? Just looking at Thailand and Malaysia, and I get a funny
feeling down my spine. sigh......"
Another forumer was less kind when he wrote:
"million dollar ministers and million dollar permanent secretaries naturally
can't see that "relatedness"' [between affordability of retirement and making
babies] you mentioned.
Why? Because you see in Singapore these policy makers can only understand an
issue in its proper perspective only when they are personally affected. or
afflicted as in the case of illnesses. [How can ministers who earn SGD1.6 mio
a year understand and relate to the plight of a family who has to survive on a
monthly household income of SGD3,000 a month?]
If a system of compensation of paying Ministers currently exist , based upon
benchmarking against the top 5 earners of the community regardless of ""how""
they earn their money( remember rogue trader Chen of CAO was the 4th top
earner in the list) then what can we expect from them? logical thinking? Nah!
And really why produce another generation of media and state socialised
unthinking unanalytical slaves for THEM and their pre-assigned elite status
It looks like for now Singapore's battery producing factories (oops I mean
baby making families) will be closed for the duration and the Matrix (oops I
mean the Singapore Government) will have to look off-shore for other sources
of raw material for the reproduction process. Needless to say these
alternatives are already being explored.
The editor wishes to express her thanks to the participants in Delphiforums
who have contributed substantively by providing feedback and view points for
Non-Members of Delphiforums may enter the discussion forums as "Guests"
(You may view the full discussion thread at:
Attachment: 34k (application/vnd.ms-powerpoint) Singapore Switzerland.ppt