People’s Voice Party (PVP) chief Lim Tean took to his Facebook on Monday (15 June) sharing a video of a pre-school teacher voicing out against Singapore’s high cost of living and low wages that are crushing the young families in the country.
Vig Ramachandran, a pre-school teacher for 12 years, said in the video that many young Singaporean families are struggling with the high cost of living as they need to support their while coping to the high financial commitment of household expenses, childcare and education fees, HDB mortgage, as well as the rising GST and elderly parents’ hospital bills.
“Some young parents are now undergoing the sandwich generation syndrome. They are sandwiched between taking care of their own family, and of their elderly parents financially,” she remarked, adding that the Government is now encouraging the younger people to top up their older family members’ Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.
Ms Ramachandran noted that while the more affluent parents have no concerns regarding school fees, most young parents find it difficult to keep up with the fees.
Citing her experience in paying her university fees with her father’s CPF, she then understood the pain and suffering of parents in sustaining a child at university level with no security or guarantee of a job afterwards.
Ms Ramachandran elaborated, “Just last year, a new description arrived in Singapore, ‘The Graduate Poor’, because so many of our graduates fail to find employment within the first 12 months of completing their degrees.”
She also shared the predicament faced by her family – including herself – where their income was too low to support their living when she was a child, given that her then 55-year-old father earned S$900 per month and her mother worked as babysitter while both her elder sisters were in pre-university level.
“Money was never enough and the church stepped in to do what I believe the government should have done. They provided us with one month free of groceries for a year. Imagine if my family did not receive help from voluntary organisations? We would be struggling from hand to mouth, for a very long time trying to make ends meet,” Ms Ramachandran said.
In another story she shared, a soon-to-birth mother had to resort to become a Grab driver in order to cover her son’s Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) examination fee as her pre-school teacher’s salary was unable to cover her family needs. Plus, with her husband hospitalised, she was left with no other choice but to become the “sole breadwinner” of the family.
Ms Ramachandran noted that the mother did not want her son to get “a slip of paper instead of actual results” from the school due to unpaid fees.
“I do not think it is fair or right that in a first world country, education is not equal and fair across the board for everyone. Each student should receive their relevant certificates regardless of financial payment,” Ms Ramachandran stressed.
Noting that some parents earn low salaries but with long working hours, she said, “Some parents work 12-hour shifts in warehouses as packers, and they are only earning S$1,400 on average per month! This is happening at present in 2020. Salaries can hit as low as S$1,400 for lower income families. Times will thus always be hard for them and their children.
“The PAP government has to understand that as living costs have increased, the burden on ordinary Singaporeans has become crushing. What is the government doing to solve this issue? Are they willing to increase our pay and give Singaporeans more job opportunities for the jobs that we can perform well in?”
She then remarked, “A living wage would provide dignity and equality across our low-income sector. It will also cease the ever-cheaper imported labour that has unrecognisably changed the face of the Singapore that I was born into.”
To match up with the high cost of living in Singapore, Ms Ramachandran asserted that “it is the high time” to increase the salaries of Singaporeans, as it could also help young parents to “start a family decently without the fear of poverty shadowing them”.
“We are talking about hard-working Singaporeans. Singaporeans with jobs. Jobs that take long and hard hours work just to bring home an income of less than S$1,500 per month. An income that cannot afford survival for a family in the most expensive county on the planet,” she said.
Calling for a better set of circumstances for the young families, Ms Ramachandran urged the Government to not deprive the young generations with unnecessary poverty.
“I want a better deal, a fairer deal for our young families. These are our future generation, the boys and girls who will grow into the men and women who will drive Singapore forward with their new ideas, and their enterprises and their fresh approaches. Don’t let us continue to keep many of them hidden and deprived under a cloak of unnecessary poverty,” she concluded.