In the recent accident where a taxi driver killed an elderly cardboard collector when he lost control of his vehicle while reversing, the Singapore press alleged that the elderly woman collected cardboard to keep the neighbourhood clean. Quoting an unidentified cleaner in the vicinity, Chinese media Lian He Wan Bao said that the 77 year old elderly collected cardboard not for the money but to keep the neighbourhood clean.

The incident happened on Wednesday (March 30), where a Comfort taxi suddenly reversed at high speed while parking and hit 77-year-old Poh Ah Gin who was looking for cardboard at the dirty alley behind a coffee shop at Bedok 123 along Bedok North St 2.

Photo from The Straits Times
Photo from The Straits Times

According to another Singapore press, The New Paper, they interviewed the younger sister of the victim who claimed that her older sister “had money but stubbornly insisted on collecting cardboard”. However, the younger sister contradicted her statement saying that the victim regularly lives off food from her siblings.

In Singapore, the elderly poor collect cardboard to earn a living because the national retirement system CPF is insufficient and pays as low as next to nothing for elderly who did not make a regular contribution in their lifetime. Most housewives fall into this category.

The Singapore culture however is one that is sensitive to poverty, which is inferred as a “dirty word” in Singapore due to the government’s calls for self-reliant. Most poor do not seek help as it is perceived as shameful. The hardest hit is the elderly as they face both increasing cost of living when medical bills pile up, and lowly paid manual employment work like cleaners and security guards.