By Chris Kuan
In the Budget debate, Finance Minister Heng Swee Kiat on social support: “When it comes to customising assistance to the specific needs of certain communities, community action is critical … Even the strongest social safety nets are no substitute for the caring hearts and helpful hands of neighbours,”
It means we should depend on the family and community as the first pillar for social support. It also means the burden is placed on the community, not the government.
But here is what it means in dollars and cents - I am using the unpaid work calculator provided by the UK's Office of National Statistics. Do note that median wages are roughly similar.
If you spend 7 hours a week volunteering social work, that is worth S$9,100 a year. If you are a stay at home mother who looks after a child, that is worth S$29,000 a year if you spend 3 hours a day. If you need to take care of an infirmed, aged parent - spending 2 hours a day, that is S$12,300 a year.
Okay, one can argue that these work can be done by Cambodians and Indonesians but the point is you are not getting paid and you are not getting CPF.
So next time when the government keeps talking about things like community and family in regards to care and social support, do know the community and the family are doing free work which let the government off the hook in lieu of social spending. That's why the government talks fiscal sustainability as if it has no costs.
But it is those caring hearts who pays the price.