Photo of elderly Singaporean with Lee Hsien Loong portrait

According to the latest government public assistance statistic, poverty among Singaporeans have jumped 28% over 4 years from 2012 to 2016. The total number of Singaporeans on Comcare assistance rose from 31,713 in 2012 to 40,738 in 2016. The amount of funding also increased 10% to S$130 million in the same period, however the amount spent per recipient is lowered.

Public assistance graph from Ministry of Social and Family Development

The number of Singaporeans trapped in long-term poverty according to the government has also steadily increased each year, and the most affected are elderly aged 55-64 at 23%. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) dismissed the increase of elderly poverty to ageing population and noted there is nothing to worry about:

“The increase in proportion of households with older persons or retirees corresponds with demographic trends such as shrinking family sizes and an ageing population.”

In a media statement on the report, MSF Minister Desmond Lee claimed that the government is “adding more support” for the poor:

“Over the past five years, we have seen a significant increase in ComCare support to more individuals and families, as awareness of and accessibility to ComCare assistance have been enhanced with the setting up of our Social Service Offices in the community. Even as the Government has stepped up to help those in need, not just through ComCare but also through our many other layers of assistance, these individuals and their households continue to need support from their families and the community. With families, the community and the Government working closely together, we can foster a more caring and gracious society.”

MSF also wrote that the government is “strengthening” the social safety net and quoted CPF Life and Medishield Life as government spending. The deliberate move to name the two schemes is to send a discreet message to Singaporeans that the CPF contribution made monthly from their salaries is not their money.

However, the worst is yet to hit the poor as an impending GST hike in 2019 will likely take a bigger chunk off disposable income leaving them poorer than before. The GST affects the poor more than the rich as a percentage of their income.