The new Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan Jin is facing heavy criticisms from Singaporeans when he dismissed public perceptions by saying that old people who collect cardboard are not really financially well-off, and some simply took the demeaning work as an exercise:
“The normal perception that all cardboard collectors are people who are unable to take care of themselves financially is not really true. There will be some who do this as their main source of income. Some do so to supplement what they have. Some prefer to earn extra monies, treat it as a form of exercise and activity rather than being cooped up at home. They do this to remain independent, so that they can have dignity and not have to ask their families for help.”
Minister Tan Chun Jin said that he based his belief from young Singaporeans in the youth group under the government’s National Youth Council, the Youth Corps. He said that these young Singaporeans spent their weekends over 2 months “befriending” the elderly cardboard collectors in Jalan Besar, and these are their findings.
Singaporeans face a retirement crisis because the nationalised retirement fund, Central Provident Provident (CPF), pays interest rates as low as 2.5% resulting in an accumulation rate slower than the rate of inflation every year. To worsen Singaporean’s retirement fate, the Singapore Government raise the retirement age repeatedly from the original 55 to 67 years old, and doubled the Minimum Sum in 12 years, from S$80,000 in 2003 to S$161,000 in 2015.
Although Singaporeans work the longest hours and also save the most money in the world, their retirement are in jeopardy mainly because of the exorbitant housing prices in Singapore. Usually after paying off a 25 year long debt, Singaporeans do not have enough for retirement and many elderly are forced into employment as they could not afford living in Singapore.
Many old people ended up working in demeaning jobs like cleaners and security guards, and those who cannot find employment ended up selling tissue paper and collecting trolleys of cardboard on the streets. The Singapore Government does not recognise these elderly are having financial difficulties, and like Minister Tan Chuan Jin, believe these people are just “exercising” and do not need help.
You may view Minister Tan Chuan Jin’s post here.