SINGAPORE — Recently, a netizen took to Facebook to express his shock upon discovering an 86-year-old elderly person still working as a cleaner.

On Thursday, netizen Fahrurazi Degil shared a photo in the Facebook group ‘SG Opposition’, which showed the cleaning schedule of an HDB block, including the cleaner in charge of the block.

“Hello! I’ve been working in your estate for almost 15 years. I’m a huge fan of football and I like to birdwatch with my friends, ” the elderly cleaner introduced himself in the “about me” section.

The cleaning schedule was released by Marsiling-Yew Tee Town Council to the residents of one of the blocks in their estate.

Fahrurazi commented, “86 years old man who should enjoy his retirement instead of cleaning the estate.”

“What does the future hold for us when we reach his age?” Fahrurazi wondered.

Netizens question the plight of elderly workers in Singapore

Many other netizens commented on Fahrurazi’s post, expressing their disappointment with the current state where some elderly individuals are unable to retire due to low income, depleted CPF savings, and other reasons.

One netizen pointed out that the elderly cleaner has been doing the job for almost 15 years, which means he was already over 70 when he started.

Another netizen shared his own experience, saying “I am 70 this year, and I can tell you it does not get any easier.”

One netizen shared that in his block, another elderly man is also working the morning shift:

On the other hand, some comments reminded readers of past remarks made by PAP ministers, who were accused of being out of touch with the reality on the ground. The ministers had claimed that elderly individuals continue working as a form of “exercise.”

As Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong vowed for Singapore to achieve  a “Swiss standard of living” by 1999, some netizens had mocked that if Goh could foresee a “Swiss standard” in reality in Singapore, which in fact elderly still need to work while facing “Swiss cost of living”:

Some netizens have suggested that the vicious cycle of elderly individuals being unable to retire will continue as long as the incumbent government remains in power.

They urge others to take action by voting to make a difference.

Elderly Singaporeans forced to work for survival

More than 20 years have passed since 1999 and many elderly Singaporeans continue to struggle everyday working to survive.

According to a Reuters’ report in 2019, many elderly Singaporeans look for jobs after retirement because the Singapore’s CPF retirement saving scheme does not provide enough money for them to survive.

“If I don’t work, where will my income come from?” said 71 year-old Mdm Mary Lim, one of many elderly cleaners earning a meager wage clearing up to 400 plates a day at a foodstall in Singapore’s Chinatown.

“If I stop my work, how will I survive?”

The Singapore government announced in the Budget 2023 that it will increase the minimum monthly payout for the Retirement Sum Scheme (RSS) from S$250 to S$350 starting 1 June 2023, as part of the effort to boost retirement adequacy.

However, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) at National University of Singapore published a survey finding in 2019 that an older Singaporean above 65 years old would need S$1,379 a month to meet his or her basic needs.

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