Elderly poor: 10 damning statistics?

Photo: Calvin OhPhoto: Calvin Oh

Elderly workers: Many working out of need

I refer to Ng Kok Hoe’s article “Elderly workers: Many working out of need, not out of choice” (Straits Times, May 18).

More than half work to meet living expenses?

It states that “When the National Survey of Senior Citizens asked elderly people in 2011 why they continued to work, more than half said that it was to meet their current living expenses.

Another 20 per cent cited concerns about long-term income security. Just 12 per cent chose to work in order to stay active, while 7 per cent were looking to occupy their time. Quite clearly, many did not consider retirement an option.”

Comment: someone said that one elderly person collected cardboard for the exercise? 

25% earn $500 or less?

“the elderly population still has fairly low incomes. The 2011 survey found that one in four elderly persons had a monthly income of $500 or less, taking into account not just income from work but all possible sources such as the CPF, family and public assistance”

Comment: someone said that poverty has been eradicated in Singapore?

Can monetise HDB, but 25,000 in rental HDB?

“It is sometimes suggested that elderly people do not need active income sources because they own assets – especially housing – that can be converted into equity when necessary, or that they may turn to their family in times of need.

But elderly people who are poorest in terms of income are also least likely to own housing. Currently almost 25,000 elderly people live in public rental housing. These tenants have no housing asset set aside for a rainy day”

Comment: the consistent rhetoric that HDB is “asset enhancement”, but recently someone said that it may become worthless when the 99 year lease runs out!

Fewer working children?

“Demographic trends indicate that, in future, older people will have fewer working-age children to rely on for financial support. This is worrying as adult children have traditionally been the most important source of income in old age. Already, co-residence with adult children, which helps to defray elderly parents’ costs of living, is falling rapidly”

Comment: How many parents have sued their children under the Parents’ Maintenance Tribunal?

Silver Support Scheme – $100?

“Policy developments in the last few years show that policymakers are keenly aware of these issues. A new Silver Support Scheme was recently introduced to provide up to $100 a month to elderly persons with low lifetime CPF contributions”

Comment: $100 a month needs no comment!

Tinkering CPF?

“There has been periodic tinkering around the edges of the CPF”

Comment: The CPF Full Retirement Sum has been increased to $166,000 and the Basic Healthcare Sum to $52,000. How many Singaporeans are meeting these total amounts of $218,000 at age 55?

ComCare assistance?

“The reach of public assistance under the ComCare programme has widened considerably. Under the terms of short- to medium-term assistance, elderly applicants are required to continue looking for work – there is no question of choice here”

Comments: Not working – no ComCare short- to medium-term assistance!

13,500 of these older workers earned less than $500 per month

“Even when they are in the workforce, elderly workers cannot take economic security for granted as they tend to earn much less than younger workers.

Last year, the median monthly work income of persons aged 60 and above was $2,000, compared with $3,500 among the general population. About 13,500 of these older workers earned less than $500 per month”

Comment: So many elderly earn so little!

WIS and PWM?

“Measures such as the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme and the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) provide critical starting points for addressing this problem”

Comment: the bulk of WIS goes to CPF not cash, and despite PWM – cleaners’ salary still only about $1,100! 

3 times as likely as the average worker to hold low-paying service jobs?

“Lower work incomes reflect the work conditions that elderly people experience. Figures from the Ministry of Manpower show that older workers are three times as likely as the average worker to hold low-paying service jobs such as cleaning, and twice as likely to work part-time and on term contracts.

Work for many older people is more insecure and less rewarding than for younger people”

Comment: Widespread age discrimination against older workers. To what extent has out liberal foreign labour policies contributed to this?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

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.