According to Minister of Social and Family Development (MSF) Desmond Lee’s anonymous spokesperson, some Singaporeans choose to be homeless:
“Some may have homes but choose to sleep in public because of family disputes, or because they are shift workers who want to be near their workplaces.”
The Ministry was responding to media enquiries after a survey found that homeless problem is more rampant than expected. The survey was conducted over 5 hours by a hundred volunteers, and 180 homeless were found sleeping in parks and HDB void decks across Singapore.
Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe said he is “alarmed” at the poverty problem and blamed low wages for the acute homeless problem:
“I am alarmed by how long people were sleeping in public. You would think that if people were sleeping outside, if these were the numbers and if it has been happening for so long, we would have noticed. I think it reminds us how invisible they often are… They are able-bodied, and they are actually holding down jobs – just not very rewarding jobs. The low wages are a reminder of the work issues that a particular segment of the population faces.”
The survey found that 60 per cent of them were working – 58 per cent full-time, 38 per cent in casual employment. Most of them are working as security guards or cleaners, and are aged over 50 years old. The exercise, conducted from 9pm to 2am, also revealed that 21 had been sleeping outdoors for more than a year, and 18 for more than five years.
Poverty among elderly is common due to the extension of CPF Withdrawal Age from 55 to 65, under PM Lee Hsien Loong’s order. Minimum Retirement Sum was also doubled from S$80,000 to S$166,000, and the CPF pays the lowest interest rates among retirement funds in the world at 2.5%.