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AWARE: 2018 Budget lacks vision and holistic strategy on ageing population

AWARE, a local non-government organisation, ex welcomes the Government’s commitment in the Minister of Finance’s Budget Speech to increase spending for healthcare to address the challenges posed by Singapore's rapidly ageing population. However, it expressed disappointment that the Budget speech - though earlier touted by the Minister as “strategic” – ultimately did not provide a comprehensive vision to ensure adequate care for families and older persons.

AWARE states that previous Budgets have announced bold moves to support Singapore’s ageing population - such as the Pioneer Generation Package, which AWARE has recently recommended should be extended to all cohorts of older persons. By contrast, the measures announced in today’s  speech and targeted at older persons’ and caregivers’ needs appear relatively piecemeal.

The three measures that appear potentially beneficial to caregivers were the use of technology, increasing the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) for caregivers who live with or near their parents (including singles living near their parents for the first time), and improving capabilities of the AIC (Agency for Integrated Care), including integrating it with the Pioneer Generation Office (PGO).

“We look forward to more details on how exactly these measures can support caregivers, Yet, as described at present, they seem to suggest that we must continue to rely on our informal family networks for caregiving, without substantial support from the government,” said Corinna Lim, Executive Director, AWARE.

“This arrangement disproportionately disadvantages women, a disadvantage which will only intensify as care needs grow.”

Any measures introduced to support informal caregivers must recognise the huge economic sacrifices they have made in giving care. In 2017, 42% (or 290,682) of women were outside of the labour force because of family, including care, responsibilities. “In order to create a caring and cohesive society, we should ensure the well-being of the family caregivers, including by materially supporting them.”

AWARE also questions the feasibility of relying entirely on informal family support, given the shrinking size of families and low fertility rates.

Said Ms Lim, “A more sustainable solution is to more equitably distribute care responsibilities across all levels of society, including through state investment in formal long-term care infrastructure. We therefore look forward to the details of the Minister’s announcement that more long-term care infrastructure will be built in the coming years.”