71-year-old cleaner Mary Lim. Source: Reuters TV

The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) at National University of Singapore published a survey findings yesterday (22 May), revealing for the first time that an older Singaporean above 65 years old would need $1,379 a month to meet his or her basic needs.

The household budgets necessary to meet basic needs were $1,379 per month for single elderly households, $2,351 per month for elderly couples.

For those aged aged 55 to 64 years old, they would need a minimum of $1,721 per month for a person to live in Singapore.

The sums were derived from focus group discussions involving more than 100 participants from diverse backgrounds, and using a consensus-based methodology known as Minimum Income Standards (MIS).

Participants generated lists of items and services that were deemed a basic need through a common consensus. Each item or service was only included if participants agreed that it was a basic need, and could explain why it should be included.

These included personal care items as well as leisure and cultural activities, as participants agreed that basic needs go beyond subsistence. Household budgets were then determined from these lists.

Despite a projected increase in Central Provident Fund (CPF) participation and savings with future cohorts, the basic retirement payment of less than $800 is only about half of the household budget for a single elderly person, the study said.

CPF not enough

Indeed, based on CPF Retirement Booklet published by CPF Board for public consumption early this year, under the very Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) scheme, an elderly person at 65 can only obtain a monthly payout of $730 to $790 per month. The BRS assumes one set aside $88,000 in his Retirement Account at 55 with a property pledged.

And worse still, thanks to a question posed by NCMP Associate Prof Walter Theseira in Parliament in Feb this year, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo was forced to reveal that presently, 74% or about three-quarter of elderly CPF members are receiving monthly payouts of under $500:

Many on the average are receiving only about $300-400 a month of payout, which is about 25% of the needed $1,379.

It’s no wonder many of the elderly have to continue to work, despite their old age and sufferings from age-related ailment. Some work as cleaners in hawker centres while others work as security guards. Still, some work at Changi airport as cleaners or trolley collectors surprising many tourists visiting Singapore, as their own elderly are typically enjoying the sunset years at home.

Not surprising, there have been reports of Singapore elderly working till they literally dropped dead in their workplace.

For example sometime ago, there was a media report about an 80-year-old dishwasher, Mdm Ho, who died while working at ABC hawker centre in Bukit Merah. She died inside the toilet, sitting on the toilet bowl.

According to the report, Mdm Ho worked daily from morning till night, 7 days a week. She had to wash some 200 dishes a day. She only had 2 days off a month.

“When I saw her yesterday, she was walking unsteadily and appeared pale. I heard she has been having diarrhea for the past few days,” her supervisor said.

It’s not known how much Mdm Ho was receiving (if any) from CPF Board


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