During the last elections, while campaigning PM Lee saw an 80 year old woman still working hard for a living, his response was one of delight that old folks here are working......wonderful!! Instead of wasting their time idling at home or looking after grandchildren, it is best to have our old folks working. Self-help is the best, our govt has often told us. We should be prepared to work longer and harder. Singapore govt cannot afford to give welfare or public assistance that is sufficient for more than 2 meals a day. For people reading my blog, this is the heart of the issue - if the elderly who have to clean toilets for a living die without seeing benefits of the wealth our society has generated, who benefits from this wealth?
Many our elites are hired into GIC & Temasek to manage this money that technically belongs to the people of Singapore. While they are unable to help our elderly who work to support themselves, the govt is able to invest in troubled banks and losing a few billion here and there. You might think that in your time of sickness and poverty, this wealth to which you have contributed is there to take away some of the financial pain........but lets get real here, helping Singaporeans is a waste of money when you can use the money to invest for higher returns e.g. Citibank, UBS, Shin Corp. Giving money to the elderly will result in a crutch mentality and undermine their work ethics. Our govt is able to create numerous cleaning jobs for them anyway so let them not be a burden to the state. The same amount of money can be used as scholarship for foreign students - although many use Singapore as a stepping stone and don't even bother to serve out their 3 year obligation to work here, we shouldn't be too small minded about that. If not scholarship for foreigners, there are other areas to spend the money - govt sponsored research, defense, troubled western banks, telcos in Thailand....etc. Spending money to help elderly Singaporeans ranks very low on the list of priorities. We should all be happy to have a govt that has plenty of good ideas on what to do with taxpayers' money.
ST Forum 4 April 2008
Elderly toilet cleaners a sad reflection of society here
Recently, I was at a toilet in a shopping centre when I noticed an elderly woman with a bent and crooked back trying to clean the floor while fashionable young women applied their lipsticks and checked their hairdos in the mirror.
I find this scene to be a sad reflection of society here, one that is played out daily in numerous shopping centres.
During the course of my travels through China, from rural Yunnan to cosmopolitan Shanghai, I never once encountered an elderly toilet cleaner. This is perhaps because in China, it is considered a stain on the family honour if your mother, grandmother or aunt has to clean toilets to support herself, so the elderly are usually supported by the family network.
The situation is the same in the Philippines.
Singapore seems unique in having the highest density of elderly toilet cleaners in the world, surely not an accolade to be proud of.
Although cleaning toilets is easy to learn, it is far from pleasant, given the bad toilet habits of Singaporeans.
Besides this, it is a job that may be hazardous for the elderly, who are more likely to suffer serious fractures should they slip on the wet toilet floor.
To resolve this situation, perhaps the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Manpower can work together to consider the following suggestions:
- Survey these elderly cleaners to find out more about their financial and social situation, to see what sort of aid can be provided.
- Devise incentives for the proprietors of food outlets, supermarkets and childcare centres to employ these elderly folk in the preparation or packing of food instead.
- Increase the wages of toilet cleaners as unpleasant jobs should command a higher wage so that younger people would want to take them up.
- Allow foreign workers to do the job.
Encourage students in schools to empathise with toilet cleaners and practise good toilet habits by periodically making them clean school toilets.
Dr Anne Chong Su Yan