ComCare: Older up 74%, younger up 41%?

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Young needy S’poreans

I refer to the article “Young and in need” (Sunday Times, Apr 23).

It states that “Three months ago, Ms Chloe Lin (not her real name) splurged on a big-ticket item. It was her daughter’s 11th birthday.

Surviving on $360 from ComCare for 9 months?

Ms Lin, 33, bought a mango vanilla cake decorated with characters from the movie Frozen. It cost her $50 – one-seventh of the $360 she got a month from ComCare, Singapore’s social aid scheme for the poor and needy.

But for Ms Lin, it was worth it. “It’s her favourite cartoon and flavour,” she said simply.

Having dropped out of school in Secondary 2, Ms Lin struggles to hold on to a job. Her longest stint was as a property telemarketer from 2010 to 2013, earning $7 an hour. But when the sector slowed, she was let go. Twice divorced, she now lives in a one-room rental flat in Ang Mo Kio with her daughter.

Last year, Ms Lin applied for and received ComCare help. For nine months, the monthly stipend was all the pair had to live on.”

Can you imagine a single mother with her child trying to survive on just $360 a month?

Young S’poreans relying on govt handouts increase by 41%? 

“Ms Lin is among a growing number of young Singaporeans who are in need and having to rely on the Government for handouts.

Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) data shows that 5,644 young households – with applicants aged below 35, the official definition of youth – received ComCare’s short- to medium-term financial aid in the financial year of 2015.”

Over age 60 S’poreans relying on govt handouts increase by 74%?

With regard to “This is a 40 per cent jump from the 4,016 young households who got such ComCare aid in 2012 – the earliest year that age-segregated data was made public. By contrast, the number of older households whose applicants are aged 35 to 59 went up less – by 34.9 per cent” – what is perhaps even more alarming is that the number of age 60 and above successful ComCare applicants increased by a whopping 74 per cent (shown in the table, but not highlighted in the subject news article).

Easier to qualify, but still so little help?

In respect of “Over the years, the Government has become more generous in administering ComCare, bumping up cases. Families now get help when they have a monthly household income of $1,900 or less, or a per capita income of under $650, among other criteria”- what’s the point of becoming more generous in the eligibility criteria, but still giving a paltry $360 a month for a family?

“But what experts say is troubling is that young Singaporeans account for one in five recipients – a proportion that has not budged despite government efforts such as student care and skills-upgrading subsidies.

It is also just a shade under the share that older Singaporeans aged 60 and above form (these do not include those who get long-term help due to illnesses or disabilities).”

Stuck with low wages?

As to “Another set of data also suggests that the problem of poverty among young Singaporeans can be quite intractable. More so than other age groups, they seem more stubbornly stuck with low wages.

Manpower Ministry data shows that last year, there were fewer employed residents aged 15 and above earning a gross monthly income of $1,000 and less, compared to 2015. However, those aged 25 to 34 registered the smallest percentage point drop, meaning that younger workers are slower in breaking out of this low-income bracket compared to other age groups.

817,100 earn below $2,500?

There are 41,500 people aged between 15 and 34 who earn under $1,000 a month as of last June” – according to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Yearbook of Manpower Statistics 2016 published in June 2016 – there were 817,100 employed residents with gross monthly income below $2,500, excluding employer CPF contribution.

611,300 earn below $2,000?

Of these, 611,300 earned below $2,000, 407,400 below $1,500, 172,900 below $1,000 and 47,000 below $500.

817,100 net income below $2,000?

If we deduct the typical 20 per cent employee CPF contribution, the number earning a net income of less than $2,000 ($2,500 less 20 per cent CPF) may be about 817,100.

40% of workers’ net income below $2,000?

This is about 39 per cent of the total resident workforce of 2,097,500 (817,100 divided by 2,097,500).

In respect of “There are two reasons why some young Singaporeans are in difficulties, say those interviewed.

One is that some struggle to move out of the poverty trap – they are either born into poverty and remain mired in it, or are stuck in jobs that just do not pay enough.

Mr Muhd Alfian K., 30, who has O-level qualifications, is one of them. A crane operator, his life revolves around hitting a target of loading and unloading at least 52 containers within a 12-hour shift. His salary will then be bumped up to $2,000.

This translates into a take-home pay of $1,600 for his family of five.

His wife Irah Nurshahrani, 26, tried to help by taking on jobs such as a hotel housekeeper and a petrol station cashier. But she has had to move from job to job after taking too many days off to care for their children, aged one, two and three. “He works long hours and I try to get work too but it is hard and the money is not enough.”

$100 ComCare help for 3 months?

They received $100 in ComCare help for three months last year.

Two, more young Singaporeans are poor because more are now unemployed.

Below 30 unemployment rate 5%? 

The jobless rate for those below 30 years old has risen over the years and was at 5 per cent last year, double that of other age groups” – these may be underscored by the following recent articles:-

Lowest pay increase, slowest to promote workers? 

… “Singapore companies also offer the lowest pay increase (in the region)” (“Singapore firms take nearly 4 years to promote workers: Survey” (Today, Apr 21))

… “95% engineers in India unfit for software development jobs” ( MSM, Apr 21)

In this connection, it may also not be helpful to have remarks like the following:-

High cost of living is due to having higher aspirations in life?

Ng E-Jay wrote on 12 May 2014

Quote :

“Dr Ng Eng Hen, the Defence Minister, tried to deflect the cost of living issue onto Singaporeans by claiming that the high cost of living is due to having higher aspirations in life.

He was speaking at a Singapore Medical Association dinner and was responding to a question from the audience concerning the rising cost of living in Singapore. He said, “If you look at household goods, per household, what people have — handphone, TV — has actually gone up”

Dr Ng added, “Unlike the past, mobile phones are almost an essential item for children.”

“That Singaporeans find costs of living expensive due to higher aspirations is a reason that will not please people … … as the reason is ‘objective’ and does not address ‘issues of the heart’,” said the Defence Minister.

Dr Ng Eng Hen is widely off the mark. The high cost of living in Singapore is not a matter of perception

Businesses, faced with increased rental costs, have no choice but to pass the costs onto consumers, or risk shutting down. That is why the prices of so many of our daily necessities and conveniences of life have gone up so quickly. Hawker fare and prices at food courts have soared in recent years precisely because of rapidly rising rentals.

Rising rentals affects all kinds of small businesses like hair salons, book stores, eateries, mama shops, etc. All of them have had to raise prices in tandem with rentals in order to survive. In the end, it is the consumer who is squeezed.

Also, as society becomes more inter-connected, items like smartphones and laptops are no longer luxury items, but have become necessities of life. Those who refuse to use these products will find it harder to keep up with the rapid pace of communication and information exchange taking place today.”

Leong Sze Hian

 

About the Author

Leong
Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.