In 1994, the Singapore govt enacted the Maintenance of Parent Act shifting the responsibility of care of the old to their children[Link]. On the surface it looked like something out of Confucian ethics put into law - children should be filial to their parents so we might as well legislate it. So instead of the govt providing a safety net for the old, this was shifted to Singaporeans. A tribunal was setup to allow parents to legally force their children.
For high income individuals, taking care of their parents isn't really a big issue but that is not the idea of the PAP govt. Their approach has been to push as much of the financial burden of care from the govt to children of the old folks even those in the low income bracket. The biggest strain comes when the parents of low or lower middle income earners need special care - nursing home care or they are sick and need to be hospitalized often. If the person is struggling to take care of his family, the added financial burden of caring for his parents can be extremely challenging to shoulder.
The level of Government subsidy will depend on your family income. With effect from 1 July 2009, the Government subsidy framework for community hospitals has been enhanced from 4 tiers to 9 tiers with subsidy level ranging from 10% to 75%., as shown in the table below. The same framework has taken effect at the hospices from 1 Oct 2009 onwards, and will take effect at the nursing homes, chronic sick facilities and psychiatric homes from 1 Jan 2010 onwards.[Source]
Nursing home stay can cost from $1500 to $3000 depending on the needs of the elderly under care and the quality of care. A man supporting his family of 4 (his father in a nursing home, one child and wife) on a gross income of $1500 will have to pay $450-$900 for the care of his father in a nursing home.
Total Family Income (based on family of 4) Subsidy Level for Citizens* < or = $1,440 75% $1,441 - $2,200 70% $2,201 - $3,000 60% $3,001 - $3,800 50% $3,801 - $4,600 40% $4,601 - $5,200 30% $5,201 - $5,400 20% $5,401 - $5,600 10% > $5,600 0%
The high cost of nursing home has driven some Singaporeans to send their parents to nursing homes in Johor where the quality of care is generally lower and it is far more difficult for friends and relatives to visit the elderly.
Under the PAP govt, Singapore has the lowest expenditure as a % of GDP on healthcare and elderly care among developed countries. We have the highest number of millionaires per capita[Link]. As the sale of luxury cars surge to record levels [Link] so has the financial strain on working class Singaporeans. If you watch the video, it tells of a sad situation. Half the people who send their parents to one particular nursing home defaulted on payment. They don't to visit their own parents because they are afraid they will be asked to pay up or bring their parents home. One poor Singaporean abandoned his mother at a nursing home in Johor because he lost his job and can no longer afford the nursing home payments. This approach pushing responsibility of care for the aged from govt to ordinary Singaporean to amplify the effects of the income gap in Singapore which is the highest among developed countries.
If Singapore is an impoverished state, we may forgive the govt for neglecting old folks and the heavy burden poorer citizens have to shoulder for the care of their parents. However, this not the case for Singapore. The govt spends excessively on defense - far beyond what is necessary to defend the island. Vast reserves are accumulated and there is limited transparency and accountability in this area. The old folks of today are the ones responsible for creating Singapore's economic miracle - they were the number one workforce in the world and attracted the large foreign investments that propelled our economic growth in our first 3 decades as a nation. Today we have elites that reward themselves with the highest salaries in the world as these old folks are made to take up low paying menial jobs in the last years of their lives. To say this is unconscionable and deplorable is an understatement.