Photo from democracy now

Due to insufficient CPF retirement fund, Singaporean elderly are turning to crimes to get free lodging and food from the prison. According to state media Straits Times, the number of elderly prisoners above the age of 60 have doubled in the past 5 years from 359 at 2.8% of the prison population in 2012, to 651, or 5.3%,in 2016.

Some of the crimes featuring elderly that came out in the news in recent years are one where a 71-year-old man vandalised “return our CPF” message at various bus stops. Just last week, a 64-year-old elderly was charged for criminal misappropriation for stealing copper cables from his employer building to pay for his wife’s cancer treatment.

Read: Poor elderly steal copper wire to pay for wife’s cancer treatment

The Singapore Prison Service retrofitted 25 cells with mobility-aid features like handrails, grab bars, anti-slip flooring and nurse call help button. State media Straits Times however attributed the double in elderly inmates due to an ageing population.

In countries with high income inequality like United States, the poor and elderly often turn to prison to get free healthcare or escape from the exorbitant cost of living. Singapore’s GINI coefficient is higher than that of US, and there is no Minimum Wage. Singapore elderly typically work as security guards or cleaners and they earn as low as S$5 an hour on contract jobs with no medical or annual leaves benefits. In addition to exorbitant and rising medical costs, Singaporeans also  do not have free access to their Medisave savings. It is hence becoming a trend that elderly commit a crime to get a regimented lifestyle in prison with three meals and healthcare taken care of than a life in extreme poverty on the Singapore streets.

Singapore’s CPF retirement payout has dwindled in value due to depression of interest rate by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The floor rate of 2.5% has been kept intact since Lee Hsien Loong took office in 2004 – coincidentally, his wife became CEO of Temasek Holdings, the sovereign wealth fund company managing CPF funds, in the same year.