In his Chinese New Year message, PM Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans to keep the family unit strong and healthy
He cited a disturbing trend: more elderly Singaporeans living on their own
PM Lee elaborated, "But young families must also stay in touch with ageing parents and visit them regularly or, better still, stay with them ...... No institution or old folks' home can replace the love and warmth of family members, nor can the government."
Singapore must avoid the pitfalls of Western-style welfare, where generous state benefits for the jobless and elderly have weakened the family unit. With the provision of Western-style welfare, family members often feel little responsibility to care for one another.
Have we asked ourselves why are Singaporeans not wiling to cater to the needs of their parents. Does this trend coincide with Singaporeans not willing to have more babies?
I think maybe it is. Having one more elderly in a typical family unit of 4 persons means having an additional mouth to feed. With a rising cost of living (the monthly household expenditure has increased at a greater extent than the increase in personal monthly income), whereby everything around us seems to be rising in cost, it is no surprise Singaporeans are less willing to cater to their parents and having an additional child.
In budget 2007, the government introduced the Senior Citizens Bonus. With an ageing population, how long can the government finance the Senior Citizen Bonus?
The chances of Senior Citizen Bonus being a permanent feature of Singapore's society is very slim, since the government has made its stand vey clear. No Western-style welfare. But at the end of the day, when the family unit is unable to finance the needs of its elderly, the government has to come in and played its role.
The following could well sum up the entire phenonmenon.
"When I can't even feed my wife and children, how am I going to feed my father and mother? I don't even have enough money to put them up in an old folks' home. I think they have to stay out on their own. Occasionally, I will provide them with cash when the government gives me some money.
My dad's CPF had been depleted financing for his home. He now no longer have much CPF left."
Pardon the ignorance of a 21 year old youth, but I suppose some form of welfare to cushion the increasing cost of living will help.
At the end of the day, looking after my parents is my own sacred responsibility. I should not push this responsibiity to the government. But a helping hand along the way will be appreciated.