Towards A Better Future?

7 11 2006

Yunxi posted an article today about the old people of today’s Singaporean society.

It is only unique in SG that we see the unique phenomenon of our elderly slogging at the food courts or the public toilets. In other parts of the world, say for example US, Korea or even Malaysia, I do not see such treatment of the elderly.

When everytime I see the poor grandma/grandpa cleaning away at the table, my heart breaks. The mess that the users leaves behind is simply horrible and hideous at times. How many of us dare say that we actually do make it a point to clear our own plates after consuming our food? If it’s one of your loved ones thats doing the cleaning up at a public food court, would u then behave in such a manner?

Sometimes, at the end of the day, when the poor cleaner is tired out and hungry, he/she gets too disgusted at the sight of food even to eat it. Why? Because he/she has faced the horrible stench and sight of rotting food and drink(swill) for the entire day that even looking at fresh food reminds them of the horrible conditions they faced at work. This is certainly not a glamorous job.

Maybe you say that they do not have kids to support them, maybe they are just at the lower rungs of society. The hard truth is, they do have kids, but their children themselves do not even earn enough to feed and clothe their own children, much less be said about supporting their elderly parents.

The plights of the cardboard/can drinks collectors are not any blessed either. For each piece of cardboard or used drink can that they pick out from the rubbish dumps or the rubbish bins, each is worth only a few cents. Together, an entire bag is worth $5, which they lug around the whole day until their shoulders aches and backs are bent, is roughly enough for them to buy their lunch/dinner for that day.

We do not have a welfare state, nor do we hand out charity money for the homeless and the jobless. We are a society that rewards merit. However, there is a big divide between the rich and the poor. The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. This situation warrants our attention.

We can help the next time when we are at the food courts, a simple thank you, a little more consideration keeping the table clean when eating. Little things like that helps make their jobs more rewarding, letting them feel more appreciated. I know this sounds cliche, but a little smile goes a long way.

For my beloved readers, if you have read this and I had managed to evoke feelings inside of you, please, I beseech you to leave a comment, be it ways to make their lives better or a personal pledge to do something starting from yourself. I would greatly appreciate it if you could pass the link around/be an advocate and open our fellow Singaporeans eyes to this situation. The more people that realizes this, the higher the level of awareness would be.

We are not just saving our elderly’s situation, we might also well be saving our own’s futures.

In reply I made a comment that it’s a mixed bag. Yes we can have a welfare state. But the reality of a welfare state is that the welfare system is often abused by junkies, drunks, hobos and other undesirables. Take a look at the UK, or the US. Look at Australia. The number of homeless is appalling.

Why? Because when you have people who are unmotivated, they will take anything that comes their way. And when subsistence is no longer a factor with the government dole-outs, everything that would have been meant for food or rental will be traded for a meal ticket, a night at the shelter and coke to snort.

It is a harsh reality. Yet, at the same time, the current system of CPF contributions isn’t exactly perfect either. It is essentially a mandatory savings bank, with nominal interest rates. And it undercuts self-employed citizens: your coffeeshop uncle, your newspaper auntie. And eventually it is these people who have to struggle to survive once their savings run out. And with the measly sum in the CPF, how can anyone live till 80 with that kind of money?

Hence you have the elderly coming out in droves to clear our plates, pick our trash, and perform tasks that even the Bangladeshis today balk at. And some of them are housewives, who have never worked in their lives, and nothing in their CPF. When their children have all grown up and left to set up their own families, there they are, their elderly husbands unemployed or ailing, and their children hardly contributing because, like you said, they can hardly make ends meet themselves.

What can be done? Have the government match dollar for dollar the CPF contributions put in by the employer? Maybe, but it still leaves out the self-employed and the housewives. Contribute to the CPF of the self-employed as well? It will definitely be open to abuse. I don’t think there is an easy solution.

Just today the taxi driver commented that the government doles out millions (I personally think billions is closer) in foreign aid, most of them going to the pockets of corrupt indonesian officials. He feels that the money should be used as welfare. I think that is a fine-line to tread: foreign policy vs domestic policy. You have to help your neighbours, especially inherently unstable countries like Indonesia, because if their economy collapses, the repercussions within the region would be great. Yet at the same time what does the man-on-the-street care for foreign policy? I can tell that many wouldn’t have cared less what happened to Indonesia.

Anyway this is getting WAY too long. It is an issue that cannot be concisely dealt with. What I can say is that cost of living is high, and that cost has yet to be offset by any government aid to the poor and needy. Singaporeans are paid miserably as compared to other workers in devoloped countries. Look, we’re still drawing wages of a developing nation. How do you expect the citizens to save enough to live comfortably? Baloney.

Really, in what direction is this aging society going? I find it alarming.

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