A netizen recently posted on the Chinese social media platform Xiaohongshu (小红书), claiming that there were more people selling tissues outside the Bedok MRT station in Singapore, and even cases of begging, which made him feel that there were “more and more beggars” in the area.

This has caused a lot of discussions online.

The Xiaohongshu user, who goes by the name Yayapapaya, wrote: “I feel like there are more and more beggars in Singapore.”

“Before, they used to sell tissue paper on personal mobility devices (PMDs), but now they just sit on the ground at the entrance of the MRT station. Didn’t the government say that the Gini coefficient is getting lower?”

In the comment section, another user Momo alleged that someone will fetch beggars here to beg money in public, and then brings them back home when the workday is over.

“Some people come here with tourist visas, stay in hotels, and earn a lot of money in 1-2 weeks before flying back to their home country,” Momo claimed.

User 躺平猫 asked: “How is that possible? Now hotels charge $100 SGD per night, how can they make $100 SGD a day?”

In reply, Momo said begging is illegal in Singapore, “It seems that locals who sell tissues have a pass, so it also depends on whether anyone reports them.”

A local Chinese media  8world News has since followed up on the issue and interviewed some of the tissue paper sellers outside the MRT station on Monday(20 February) at 9 am morning.

The reporter observed three tissue paper sellers: a young man, a man in a wheelchair with an amputated left leg, and an old lady with white hair.

Although some passersby contributed money to the sellers, none purchased their tissue packets.

Lee, a seller in the wheelchair, previously owned a coffee shop stall but had to undergo two surgeries due to a sudden vascular blockage.

One of the sellers, Lee, was previously a coffee shop owner but had to undergo two surgeries due to a sudden vascular blockage. Despite his efforts, his condition did not improve, and he eventually had his leg amputated in 2021.

Lee, who is wheelchair-bound, has been selling tissues at the MRT station entrance for a year and has observed an increase in the number of sellers, with as many as seven at once during weekends.

Father accompanying his son before go to work, said his son with low IQ had no choice

The Chinese media reporter also learned that a father was there accompanying his son at a distance. Mr Chong, the father, stated that his son, Chong Yikai, is unable to find a job due to his low intelligence.

The father said selling tissues is his son’s only option, as there are many jobs he cannot handle.

He added that his son does not earn much from selling tissues, but it provides him with something to do and a little pocket money to buy the things he likes.

Worried about his son, Mr Chong comes to see his son every morning before he starts work at the coffee shop in Kembangan at 11 a.m.

“He fell asleep once and his money was stolen, but that was an exception. Usually, everyone is nice to him and doesn’t bully him.”

He also appealed to the public to understand their situation and not to bully his son or the other sellers, as it is not easy for them to make a living this way.

The father added that he had helped his son apply for a license, but it was not approved by the authorities.

Netizens urged MSF to approach these tissue sellers

Some netizens commented on 8World News‘s Facebook post, expressing their concern for the plight of these people and urging the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) or Social Service Offices to approach them and identify those who really need assistance.

Netizen Priscilla Law suggested that it would be better for social workers to approach the tissue sellers and help them to apply for government assistance.

“Most of them really don’t know how or where to apply. Besides, if begging can earn them hundreds of dollars a day, who would bother applying for assistance that only gives a few hundred dollars a month?” she added.

However, she noted that some of the sellers might be foreigners who arrived by plane and pretended to be beggars. She urged the authorities to inspect these places and identify the truly needy locals who require assistance.

Netizen: Applying for government aids could be challenging

Netizen Jessica Goh noted that many elderly people sell tissues at Boon Lay MRT station because they have no other choice and need to do so to survive.

“After all, government subsidies can only help so much. They don’t steal or commit crimes; they earn a living on their own,” she added.

Gekeng Tay replied: “You can’t say that because some people don’t know how to apply for financial assistance. If you see them, help them!”

However, netizen Derrick Foo reminded everyone that obtaining aid from MSF is not easy, as some of the tissue sellers seem to have the ability to work, “unless they have a doctor’s certification that they are permanently unable to work. It’s not that easy to apply for financial assistance.”

Invisible group in Singapore

None of the sellers had sought assistance from relevant authorities, 8World News reported.

Under Destitute Persons Act 1989, begging is illegal in Singapore:

Any person being a habitual beggar found begging in a public place in a way that causes or is likely to cause annoyance to persons frequenting the place or otherwise creates a nuisance shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $3,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

The Street Hawking Scheme is a licensing mechanism put in place by the National Environment Agency (NEA) for tissue paper sellers. It provides an annual license for a $120 fee to these sellers, allowing them to sell their products at fixed locations.

However, the scheme imposes restrictions on the tissue sellers, prohibiting them from selling their goods at places like void decks or near MRT stations.

These restrictions can have a significant impact on the earnings of the tissue sellers. TOC also understands that these sellers do not wish to be bound to a specific location since human traffic flow would vary from day to day.

Consequently, many of them prefer to sell tissue paper illegally instead of applying for a license.

According to the information on the website of the MSF, the ministry encourages low-income families to apply for short-term or long-term community care programs, including the ComCare Long-Term Assistance and ComCare Short-To-Medium-Term Assistance.

The ComCare Short-To-Medium-Term Assistance provides assistance to low-income individuals and families who are temporarily unable to work or are looking for work for a period of time. It also provides assistance to individuals and families who earn low incomes and need help with basic living expenses.

While ComCare Long-Term Assistance provides assistance to individuals who are permanently unable to work due to aging, illness, or disability, as well as to elderly individuals who have little or no income or family support. Beneficiaries of the program can receive monthly financial assistance, medical expense assistance, and other types of support.

MSF disbursed $177 million in ComCare assistance in FY2021, a decrease from $236 million disbursed in FY2020, but higher than the annual average of around $136 million from FY2017 to 2019. Around 45,000 households received ComCare assistance in FY2021, a drop of 3% compared to over 46,000 households assisted in FY2020 when Singapore was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This works out to S$3,933 or an average of S$328 monthly per household.


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