February 17th, 2012

AWARE’s response to Budget 2012

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AWARE welcomes the 2012 Budget’s focus on building a stronger Singapore by ensuring that we are an inclusive society. We are glad that special attention is being paid to the needs of three socially vulnerable groups: older Singaporeans, Singaporeans with disabilities and lower-income Singaporeans. We look forward to getting more details about the various measures in the days ahead.

Measures to help older workers

The plan to help older workers by raising CPF rates and offering more incentives for employers to hire older workers is good. But these measures only benefit people who are in, or can return to, the workforce.

Many older women are not in the workforce. In 2011, only 55.1 per cent of women aged 55 to 59 were in the workforce, compared to 85.7 per cent of men in the same age group. Many of these women left employment to become homemakers and it will not be easy for them to find jobs in the formal sector.

We urge the government to look into the needs of these women.

Why should MediShield coverage stop at 90?

We welcome the extension of MediShield coverage from age 85 to 90. But why are we stopping at 90?

As Minister Shanmugaratnam stated himself, “more Singaporeans are living to 90 and beyond”. We believe Medishield should offer lifetime coverage.

Eldercare

Families who are coping with the financial burden of caring for an elderly family member will certainly welcome the various initiatives that will help to lighten their load.

The minister announced a $120 monthly grant for families who hire a foreign domestic helper to look after elderly family members.

However, not all elderly Singaporeans are cared for by their immediate family. Some may live alone, while others may be cared for by members of their extended families, or even by friends. We trust that the $120 grant will be extended to such cases.

In addition, we note that most of the benefits are in the form of subsidies to help pay for the cost of home care or community based services. However, there is no financial support for caregivers (usually women) who take time off work (fully or partially) to take care of their elder folk. We believe that many lower income women may choose to care for the elderly themselves as they are not able to afford to pay for the care services, even with the subsidy. This is a gap which should be addressed.

Employees with disabilities

We welcome the extension of the Special Employment Credit scheme to employers who hire graduates of Special Education (SPED) schools. But what about people with disabilities who are not SPED graduates?

Measures for low-income Singaporeans

We are heartened by the extension of support for children of lower-income families. We must ensure that they break out of the poverty trap.

Help needs to be extended to other low-income groups. For example, low-income
singles, single mothers, and couples without children. Such people should not be left on the margins of society just because they do not fit the norm of the conventional family.

A truly inclusive society must include everyone.

Read AWARE’s Budget submission here.

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