THIAN SI YING: On the 17th of August 2015, we went down to the heartland areas with the intention to interview Singaporeans to seek their opinions about the upcoming General Election. However, there was a change in our plan but we still managed to conduct a few qualitative interviews with some elderly under the blocks of Ang Mo Kio.
#1: Retired man, Chinese, 81 years old
Uncle resides in Hougang and claims that he has been an active supporter of the Workers Party in every election since the last one back in the 1970s (supposedly he was referring to the General Election in 1976). He explained that he used to be on PAP’s side, “for Lee Kuan Yew”. He was open in expressing his disappointment in the government.
Inequality and elitism
He critiqued Mr. LKY’s ideal of elitism and how he imposes his ideals on the nation. He mentioned of a time where the uneducated and manual workers were driven out of the shores they slogged all their lives for (was it about the Singapore Citizen Ordinance in 1957?). He described the late politician as being unforgiving and that they shouldn’t be cast out due to their “lack of use” in nation-building. Uncle was born and raised in Singapore. He mentioned of inequality in society and wide differentials in income and status between the “elites” and the common citizens. That, Mr. Lee had the edge to become a politician due to his privileged family background and the top-notched education he had received. Also, he feels that the general public “over-glorifies” late Mr. Lee for his effort in getting the country to where it is now when in fact, every member under Mr. Lee’s leadership plays a role as important as he did but they are not getting enough credit.
Personal note: He was the first elderly person we interviewed. He was cautious of us at the start – thinking that we were doing groundwork research for an organization/party – but when we explained ourselves and most definitely our intentions, he was very much willing to share with us about his observation of the political landscape over the past decades. It was a heartfelt talk. He didn’t say anything much to why he was on the Workers Party side. From the excerpt above, it appears to us that his disappointment in the nation’s policies struck his decision more than anything else.
#2: Employed female, Chinese, 60 years old
Auntie is all for the PAP, reiterating that her family and her have been voting for the ruling party for every other election in the past.
Subsidized vocational education
She shared with us the government’s attempt to encourage lifelong learning by getting low-middle skilled workers to take up courses and workshops, so that they are able to enhance their employability and this translates to raised salaries. With the growing preference among employers to hire younger and educated workers, the government have been pushing across grants and work schemes to incentivise companies to hire the middle-old aged workers and persons with disabilities.
Welfare for ALL
When asked about the Pioneer Generation benefits (although she is not a receiving party), she feels that the government have been generous and distributes a fair amount of welfare for all citizens. The Pioneer Generation benefits for the aged are justifiable due to the medical expenses they incur due to deteriorating health condition.
Increase in CPF Contribution rates for older workers
We hear from her that the employee’s CPF contribution for older workers have raised again and employers are now contributing less to the older workers’ CPF. Now that older workers have to contribute more for their CPF as compared to the younger workers.
But that didn’t turn out to be true as she had said it after we did our research: Since Budget 2014, older workers age 50 to 55 years old contribute 0.5% more to their CPF account. For employers of older workers, they now have to contribute 2% more for older workers age 50 to 55 and 1.5% more for age 55 to 65 to their employee’s CPF. However, the older worker’s employee contribution rate still remains lower than that of the younger workers. The auntie still feels that older workers are now receiving a lower net salary.
Here’s an article that encompasses everything you need to know about this and the rationale behind the changes in the CPF contribution rate.
Assistance for deserving parties
She had some prior experience in voluntary welfare/charity organizations and came across many instances where the least-deserving parties were awarded social assistance. Being able-bodied and fit for work, they chose not to do so. Since assessment is mainly based on the housing type and number of members in the household, the situation could easily be made use of to apply for such assistance. The applicants ended up using the assistance not for sustenance or bills, but for cigarettes and alcohol.
We asked about background checks. She consented that these organizations, mostly managed/co-funded by the government, ought to do more thorough background checks on their applicants before granting them the appropriate type and extent of assistance.
- Food for thought: The truly needy
For most Singaporeans, it wouldn’t be difficult to seek out for assistance in a social service office, family service center or a VWO that is located within the vicinity of most housing estates. However, does the truly needy know about these schemes intended for them in the first place? Even when they know of such assistance, will they be open to the idea of approaching the social service offices for help?