Poverty in Singapore
Despite the enormous wealth present in Singapore, poverty is also a pressing issue within the nation. With the lack of a minimum wage, there is no guarantee that Singaporean citizens have the opportunity to make enough to live on. Leaders within the country, however, are bringing the issue to the forefront of the national conversation. Poverty in Singapore increased by 43.45% in just three years, from 2012 to 2015. Poverty affects the elderly the most, with their rates increasing 74.32% within the same time period. This rapid increase has spurred government officials to address the issue. Various government policies, such as the lack of a minimum wage and restrictions on the withdrawal of retirement money, often receive critiques as possible causes of the growing problem of poverty in Singapore.

PSP Talk

The Progress Singapore Party is a major national political group, that describes itself as the ‘party for the people.’ It supports increased attention toward rising poverty rates. The party’s rhetoric largely focuses on fighting for all Singaporeans, not just elite classes that possess money and power. The party hosted a talk series, PSP Talk, in September 2019 to highlight pressing issues and direct the national conversation. Poverty in Singapore was one of the major topics of discussion during the event. Yeoh Lam Keong, the former chief economist at GIC Private Limited, spoke at the talk series, notably proposing several poverty reforms based on the findings from his research. Keong took the opportunity to emphasize the severity of poverty in Singapore.

“To my shock and horror, I [realized] that the position of the poor in [Singapore] was much worse and much more awful than I [could] imagine,” said Keong about his research.

PSP Talk opened up an opportunity for education and reflection on Singapore’s relationship with poverty and welfare reform. Keong defined three classes of poverty in his presentation– the elderly poor, the working poor and the unemployed poor– to establish an academic understanding of the situation in Singapore. He went on to explain his research-based policy initiatives, which the government could enforce to support its impoverished citizens. Keong’s initiatives included raising funding for the Workfare Income Supplement and Silver Support Scheme, programs that provide funds to those in need, by $500-$600 a month. He argued that this was a fiscally achievable action that would aid the suffering populations of the poor and elderly. Since Keong’s presentation on these policy reforms, the Singaporean government has set up expansions to the Silver Support Scheme. In January 2021, the program will expand its qualifying criteria and increase quarterly payouts by 20%.

Party member Secretary-General Tan Cheng Bok also spoke at the event. Dr. Tan made a public commitment to understanding the complexities of poverty in the nation and working to create solutions. He continued to support this assertion in July 2020 while campaigning for the General Election, pushing voters to elect representatives who ask the “right questions,” and value trust and transparency. After a narrow defeat, Dr. Tan vowed to continue to serve the people on these issues.

Looking Forward

PSP Talk represents a promising step toward addressing the growing rate of poverty in Singapore. The Progress Singapore Party’s decision to highlight poverty at this gathering of academics and national leaders suggests a new focus for Singapore’s government. The party continues to push for increased influence within the government while holding the current elected officials accountable to the needs of all Singaporean citizens.

– Riya Kohli
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Singapore
The healthcare system in Singapore is globally renowned for its compelling design, which satisfies both conservatives and liberals. The universal healthcare system provides economically efficient and high-quality medical care in both private and public facilities.

Objectives of Healthcare

According to the Affordable Healthcare passage from Singapore’s Ministry of Health, the five fundamental objectives of the healthcare system include:

  • To nurture a healthy nation by promoting good health;

  • To promote personal responsibility for one’s health and avoid over-reliance on state welfare and medical insurance;

  • To provide good and affordable basic medical services to all Singaporeans;

  • To rely on competition and market forces to improve service and raise efficiency; and

  • To intervene directly in the health care sector; when necessary, where the market fails to keep health care costs down.

To summarize, the government acknowledges the strengths and limitations of the public and private sectors in health. Overall, healthcare in Singapore has a multipayer financing structure, where a “single treatment episode might be covered by multiple schemes and payers, often overlapping.”

Specifics of Singapore’s Success

The system is known as the 3Ms, which consists of:

  • MediShield Life – a universal basic health care insurance that is mandatory for citizens and permanent residents and provides lifelong security against large hospital bills and specific costly outpatient treatments.

  • MediSave – a mandatory savings plan consumes between 7 and 9.5% of worker’s wages, helping cover out-of-pocket payments. These tax-exempt, interest-bearing accounts can be used to pay for family members’ health care expenses or routine care.

  • MediFund – the government’s safety net for Singaporeans who cannot cover their out-of-pocket costs, even with MediSave.

Healthcare in Singapore is ranked among the best healthcare systems in the world, according to the World Health Organization (ranked 6th in 2010) and Bloomberg’s list, “These Are the Economies With the Most (and Least) Efficient Health Care.”

However, several factors beyond its structure contribute to Singapore’s successful healthcare system. Singapore is a small island city-state with a population of 5.6 million. Singapore’s physicians per 1,000 people ratio is 2.294, compared to the U.S’s, 1.565. Additionally, rates of smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse are relatively low, as well as the obesity rate. The healthier population predisposes “the country to … lower health spending.”

Limitations of Healthcare in Singapore

Although healthcare in Singapore receives acclaim for its ability to fund its systems through private markets, there are several limitations to consider, especially concerning Singapore’s underserved population. The lack of hospital beds in the emergency section of public hospitals causes patients with basic insurance plans to have limited financial protection. Since the spending on healthcare in Singapore is one of the lowest in the world (SGD 9.8 million out of SGD 400 billion), subsidies for patients are substantially limited.

Additionally, Singapore prides itself on its multipayer financial system; however, patients pay more than 60% of healthcare costs out-of-pocket. Thus, as Rachel Ngu, a writer for Mims Today (healthcare news across Asia), explains, “patients will need to pay an initial amount based on a subsidized class, as well as co-pay the rest of the bill. Aside from that, they will have to pay 10% of the rest of the bill for Integrated Plans.” Therefore, patients with basic coverage are not able to afford urgent medical attention because of the financial strain of medical bills, notably those without add-on integrated plans for more expensive hospital procedures.

Healthcare in Singapore is effective because of the efforts of the government and the people. Singapore has created a functioning healthcare system that regulates the supply and prices of healthcare services. Also, the system seeks to provide its citizen with security in the face of large medical bills. Though healthcare in Singapore is replicable on some levels, the system tailors to the specific needs of the economy and the demands of the people.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SingaporeOn one end of the spectrum, there are ultra-rich Singaporeans who live the luxurious lives one might see in the Hollywood hit movie “Crazy Rich Asians.” On the other end, there are many Singaporeans who are struggling to make ends meet. As a result, many have to resort to sleeping in the streets. It is too easy to forget that poverty and homelessness in Singapore are issues that still exist.

Homelessness in Singapore

In 2017, volunteers from the welfare organization Montfort Care and volunteer group SW101 conducted a survey focusing on issues that low-income individuals experienced. Within five hours of conducting the survey in 25 locations, the team found 180 people sleeping in public. Men comprised the majority of the homeless they found.

Later in 2019, Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy led the first landmark study on the homeless population. It unveiled the scale of homelessness in Singapore for the first time. The study found that there were “between 921 and 1,050 homeless people in Singapore,” most of whom were Chinese men. According to the study, homelessness is not typically a temporary condition but a chronic issue. About half of those interviewed had been homeless “for one to five years,” and a third for more than six years.

Non-Stereotypical Homeless Population

Homeless people in Singapore tend to stay vigilant and often try to avoid detection. It is not easy to tell them apart from other members of the public as they do not fit into the common stereotypical images of the destitute and vagrant homeless population. The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy study that found nearly 30% of the homeless found ways to maintain their appearance and look presentable.

The 2017 report revealed that approximately 60% of the homeless interviewed were employed. Around 58% had full-time employment, and 38% had temporary or part-time employment. Despite being employed, the nature and low pay of these jobs often drive people to the streets. Most of the homeless are employed in “low-wage, irregular jobs.” The average wage for homeless employees is only $1,036. This is well below the national median wage in Singapore at $2,564. With that level of income, it is impossible for many to afford a place to stay.

Public Housing

Singapore often prides itself on having one of the highest rates of homeownership in the world. The Housing Developing Board (HDB) sold apartments to around 90% of its inhabitants in 2018. HDB housing houses about 80% of Singapore’s residents. Although the HDB flats provide affordable options for Singaporeans, the strict eligibility requirements sometimes add to the problem of homelessness.

Furthermore, under the joint tenancy requirement, two single people, often strangers, have to co-rent a small one-room flat. The lack of privacy and conflicts between tenants sometimes make sleeping outdoors a more attractive option than going home. In fact, about 15% of those sleeping on the street “had HDB rental flats in their names.” Ng believes that long-term solutions to homelessness in Singapore would depend on HDB. Furthermore, it is urgent for the joint tenancy requirement to be revised or removed.

Addressing The Issue

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), as well as many other nongovernmental organizations, is working closely to help people in need and alleviate the problem of homelessness in Singapore. Over the past two years, MSF has been partnering with different community groups and government agencies to reach out to and assist the homeless population in Singapore. In July 2019, MSF launched the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (PEERS) Network, bringing together 26 agencies to help the homeless in Singapore.

The ministry also provides temporary accommodation and relief through funded overnight shelters, including their Crisis Shelters and Transitional Shelters. For individuals that are unable to support themselves and have limited or no assistance from family, there are 11 MSF-funded Welfare Homes in Singapore. MSF’s Welfare Homes provide long-term residential care and support from basic physical needs to programs that improve emotional well-being. Between 2016 and 2018, MSF assisted about 300 homeless people.

Homelessness in Singapore is easy to miss, but it is no doubt a chronic problem that has persisted for many years. Since homelessness is a complex issue that with no singular common cause, it requires multifaceted solutions to mitigate. The government has been working closely with different agencies and nongovernmental organizations. Commendable efforts have been made to address the issue by reaching out and providing both short and long-term support for the homeless in Singapore.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Singapore
With one of the highest concentrations of millionaires in the world and a reputation for being a “Food Paradise,’” it is difficult to imagine that food security is an issue in Singapore. However, hunger persists despite Singapore’s reputation as an affluent and food-secure nation. This hidden hunger in Singapore is a result of food insecurity and has caused malnutrition throughout the country.

Hidden Hunger in Singapore

Singapore is ranked as the world’s most food-secure nation, yet many Singaporeans still struggle to access a sufficient and nutritious diet. This “hidden hunger,” or the high rate of malnutrition, has created a significant issue for the nation. According to the U.N., about 4.1% of Singaporeans experienced moderate to severe food insecurity between 2016 and 2018. Food security is more than having access to the amount of food needed to survive; it is having nutritionally adequate food that is vital for a person’s growth and development.

A large part of Singapore’s population experiences food insecurity first-hand. Researchers from the Lien Center for Social Innovation reported that only 2.5% of the survey respondents from four low-income neighborhoods had no food insecurity, while 80% of respondents experienced mild to moderate food insecurity. The researchers found that within the last 12 months, one in five low-income households in Singapore had to go a whole day without eating or could not eat when hungry due to a lack of resources.

However, food insecurity is not limited to low-income households. In fact, approximately 27% of the study participants had an average monthly income of $2,000 and above. This suggests that financial constraints are not the sole cause of food insecurity in Singapore.

Food Insecurity Leads to Malnutrition

This widespread hunger in Singapore leads to a high rate of malnutrition, especially in children and the elderly population. ONE (SINGAPORE) reported that one in 10 Singaporeans lack sufficient access to essentials, including healthy and nutritious food. This makes access to healthy food an unattainable reality for many.

Malnutrition as a consequence of an unhealthy or insufficient diet creates even more health-related issues for at-risk populations. ONE (SINGAPORE)’s website reports that upwards of 23,000 children in Singapore are malnourished as a result of food insecurity. This is a staggering number for such an affluent country. Around one in three elderly Singaporeans are at risk of being malnourished. In 2015, about half of the elderly population admitted to hospitals “were eating poorly,” making them more vulnerable to medical complications and other adverse outcomes.

Food Support Systems: Lacking Coordination

Despite the abundance and diversity of food assistance groups in Singapore, including nonprofit organizations, charities, soup kitchens, Meals-on-Wheels providers and informal volunteer groups, many people experiencing food insecurity remain hungry. According to the Lien Center for Social Innovation, more than half of the survey participants who experienced severe food insecurity received infrequent or no support at all.

In spite of the support systems in place (approximately 125 in 2018), the results of this report suggest they may be inefficient in addressing Singapore’s hidden hunger. Some attribute the inefficiency to the lack of coordination between systems. Many of these food support groups operated independently and there was no information-sharing network in place. This often created more problems: duplication of assistance, food waste and in some cases, little to no aid. In order to better coordinate efforts, stronger communication between different food aid organizations is needed.

Finding Common Ground

In 2018, officers from the Ministry of Social and Family Development started engaging several food aid organizations informally. This created the foundation for a multi-agency workgroup in 2019 which brings together food support organizations and agencies. The purpose of this workgroup is to provide a platform for collaboration to end food insecurity and food waste in Singapore.

While the workgroup is still in its infancy, it has made headway in coordinating efforts among the groups. The stakeholders have worked together to address food waste by compiling a list of sources that are willing to contribute unwanted food. In addition, they are working to map food groups and their needs in order to eliminate duplication of assistance and sourcing issues. These efforts make Singapore’s food assistance programs more efficient and effective.

 

Many helping hands devoted to alleviating hidden hunger in Singapore. However, the lack of coordination among these well-intentioned groups sometimes leads to mismatches between the providers and the beneficiaries. By recognizing the “hidden hunger” in Singapore and coordinating governmental efforts, the nation and its charities may be able to more efficiently address food insecurity in the nation.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation
One of the most extreme and dangerous forms of discrimination against women is the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Some might not associate the practice with modern, cosmopolitan countries outside of Africa. However, the truth is that it is still quietly happening in a lot of communities in Southeast Asia. In fact, Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia is more common than people previously thought.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

FGM comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs. FGM usually takes place on religious or cultural grounds and undertaken for non-medical reasons, leaving the girls with long-term health complications. International organizations, such as the U.N. and the WHO, universally consider FGM a violation of human rights and an extreme form of discrimination against women. While it has no health benefits, the practice is prevalent and often performed for cultural and religious reasons. The WHO estimates that more than 200 million women and girls have experienced FGM and that more than 3 million girls are at risk of this painful practice annually.

Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia

While the procedure in many African countries commonly occurs as a ceremony when girls reach adolescence, FGM in Southeast Asia often occurs when the girls are in infancy, which makes it more hidden. Better known as Sunat Perempuan in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, people often quietly carry out the procedure on girls before they turn 2 years old and are aware of what others are deciding for their body. Muslims in Southeast Asia typically observe this practice and reside in countries such as Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Singapore

Since FGM occurs quietly, the exact number of women who experienced it is hard to pinpoint. However, experts believe that it is highly prevalent within the Malay community. Based on some anecdotal evidence, some estimate that approximately 80 percent of the 200,000 Malay Muslims were victims of FGM in Singapore. There is no law banning the practice of FGM in Singapore, and the government remains overwhelmingly silent on the issue. Some clinics offer to perform the procedure for around $15 to $26.

Indonesia

Many in Indonesia consider Female Genital Mutilation a rite of passage and people have practiced it for generations in Indonesia, a country containing the largest Muslim population of all countries globally. The government estimates that about 50 percent of the girls aged 11 and under nationwide undergo FGM, while in some more conservative parts of the country such as Gorontalo, the number could be upwards of 80 percent. Local healers say that the practice would prevent the girls’ promiscuity in later life. There is also another widespread belief that God would not accept uncircumcised Muslim women’s prayers. Some hospitals in Indonesia even offered FGM as part of the “birthing packages,” which further legitimizes the procedure and makes it hard to eliminate.

The government has gone back and forth in its decision on the issue. In 2006, the government had banned the practice of FGM, but due to pressure from religious groups, it had moved away from the attempt four years later. Instead, to accommodate the religious and cultural considerations, the government issued regulations allowing for medical staff to carry out less intrusive methods to ensure more safety. In 2016, the women’s minister announced a renewed campaign to end FGM but again met with increased opposition from the religious leaders in the country.

Malaysia

A study in 2012 found that more than 93 percent of the Muslim women that it surveyed in Malaysia have undergone the procedure. In 2009, Malaysia’s Islamic Council issued a fatwa – a legal pronouncement in Islam, allowing FGM and making the practice mandatory unless considered harmful. The call for standardization of procedure by the health ministry in 2012 added more to the problem of FGM in Malaysia as many in the country consider it to be normal and part of the culture.

A New Generation

Despite international condemnation, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia is still prevalent and entrenched in traditions in many communities. The practice exists mostly among the Muslim community but is not exclusive to it. It is only until recently that FGM in Southeast Asia has gained more international attention, and more evidence on the prevalence of the practice is necessary to raise awareness on the issue. Across Africa where the practice concentrates, some communities have started to question FGM and abandon the long-standing tradition. Hopefully, with the new awareness of FGM in Southeast Asia, the nations will soon put an end to the practice that has been putting the women in danger for generations.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

 

Facts about Education in Singapore

Singapore has recently been praised for its high-quality education, which has set an example for Western countries. These eight facts about education in Singapore discuss the government policies that have been enforced to achieve this success.

8 Facts About Education in Singapore

  1. Education in Singapore is obligatory. Since 2003, all children must be enrolled in school. This begins from an early age all the way through primary and secondary education. The compulsory education rule applies to both citizens and foreigners. If parents fail to have their children in school or home-school them, they can face significant fines. In fact, they can even go to prison for up to 12 months.
  2. It’s mostly free. Singaporean citizens receive primary education for free. Secondary education costs about $5 per month. While there are other costs related to education, they do not exceed $30 per month in either case (primary or secondary education). Thus, education is still made affordable to all Singaporeans.
  3. Almost everyone in Singapore is literate. According to the CIA Factbook, 97 percent of the population over 15 years of age can read and write, as of 2016. By the age of 16, it’s expected for students to have completed both primary and secondary education. Whether or not students decide to pursue a college degree or go on the technical career path, they are already provided with the basic skills to enter the professional world.
  4. High-quality education also comes at a price. Students have opened up about suffering from stress and anxiety related to schoolwork or tests. As stated by an OECD report about Student Well-Being, more than 75 percent of students feel extremely anxious before taking an exam. This is the case regardless of how much they have studied for it. More than half of the students feel stress while they are studying.
  5. Real-life skills are prioritized. Education in Singapore focuses on teaching students through theory. However, education is also taught with practice and through applying their knowledge to real life experiences. The goal is to give them all the skills needed to deal with different situations. Additionally, Singapore aims to help students build a strong set of values for the future. This includes teaching them that they live in a globalized world and have to adapt to different cultures as well as knowing their own national traditions.
  6. Singapore is a leader in science and reading. In recent years, Singapore has been able to top all countries in the PISA evaluation regarding science and reading proficiency. The mean score in both these fields is 493 points. Singapore’s score for science is of 556 points, followed by Japan, with 538 points. As for reading proficiency, Singapore scores 535 points.
  7. Teachers work longer days. Teachers work more hours than the world average. They are expected to spend almost as much time with their students as parents spend time with their children. Thus, reinforcing core values and the subjects taught in class.
  8. There is freedom to pursue each student’s unique interests. Students are encouraged to take on community-related activities or co-curricular activities. They will have a shorter syllabus, thus allowing more time to investigate and study specific areas of their interest in their free time. Singapore’s education also encourages a well-rounded approach. Schools offer subjects such as the sciences, electronics, languages, arts and music.

These eight facts about education in Singapore show just how effective established government practices are in reshaping a country’s future. They are simple laws which are easy to implement. But they have changed Singapore in 16 years. Certainly, work remains to be done. The students need a better support system to better deal with high education demands. However, the overall quality of life they can expect from the practices already implemented are undeniable.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Singapore
The Republic of Singapore is an island city-state located off of Southern Malaysia with a global financial center in a tropical climate and a multicultural population. As a developed nation, Singapore has been experiencing exceptional growth in its life expectancy, that is, due to its government’s commitment to health and the care of the elderly population, one of the largest in the world. In the article below, 10 facts about living expectancy in Singapore are presented.

10 Facts About Living Expectancy in Singapore

  1. Singapore, with a population of 5.88 million people, is ranked 3rd in the world in life expectancy with an average lifespan of 83.1. The country is only behind Switzerland and Japan that have expected lifespans of 83.4 and 83.7 years, respectively. The country ranking has steadily raised an average of 0.2 every year since 2000 and by 0.1 every year since 2010.
  2. In healthy life expectancy, the statistics that refers to the number of years people live in full health, Singapore is ranked 2nd in the world at 73.9, behind only Japan at 74.9. As of 1990, the country earned a ranking of “good” by WHO in full health category.
  3. Women have a higher life expectancy than men, as they are expected to live until 85.2 years, while men are expected to live up to 80.7 years. In comparison to other countries, the women’s ranking is 2nd in the world, while the men’s ranking is 10th in the world. Life expectancy for the country, in total, is 83.1 years.
  4. Part of the reason that the Republic of Singapore has been able to establish itself as such a dominant force in life expectancy and health is the country’s expenditure on research and development in health and medical sciences as a percentage of the GDP, which is second only to South Korea. Advancements in health care and medical technology, as well as improved living conditions and better nutrition, access to sanitation and reduced risk of epidemic infectious diseases, are all benefitting the population of the country.
  5. Singapore is ranked at the first place globally in terms of the proportion of births that are attended by skilled health personnel. The infant mortality rate is down to 2.2 percent in the country. The fertility rate is 1.2 and the crude birth rate is 9.4 percent.
  6. Singapore is third globally for the lowest road traffic mortality rate and fourth in deaths related to air pollution. The country has the lowest mortality rate for cardiovascular or chronic respiratory diseases and the ones that are attributed to unsafe water or lack of hygiene.
  7. As it relates to common health risk factors, Singapore boasts good ratings in these categories as well. Its people drink an average of 2.0 liters of alcohol per year, ranking them 145th in the world. Out of the total number of men in Singapore, 28 percent of them smoke, which gives them a rank of 81 in the world, while 5 percent of women smoke, giving them a ranking of 82. Only 5.8 percent of men are obese in Singapore, ranking the country in 139th place worldwide, while the women are at 6.3 percent (182nd). Their overall happiness score is 6.34 or 33rd on a global level.
  8. Singapore has started to promote frequent check-ups to help detect illnesses early and raise awareness of preventive medicine to help its population as they continue to age. With the support of this community, seniors are leading more active and productive lives, keeping in mind the value of being busy and working longer.
  9. Studies have shown that societies with a large senior population volunteer more and value connecting with their communities. They have the time and the inclination to be deeply engaged in their communities and seniors find that it keeps them young and active. Governments could create opportunities for the elderly to contribute. Singapore’s elderly have started at home, helping with child care, and have been branching out into society ever since. They are finding that this helps strengthen the intergenerational bonds while keeping them mentally active.
  10. Singapore’s government found that people are not starting to save early enough for retirement and that they need more assistance in financial and retirement planning. Now that they are living longer, they need clear financial adequacy tools to help people address such questions. They also found that older people need to focus on eating balanced diets and regular fitness while staying busy and mentally active so that they can live full lives as they continue to live longer.

Large contributions to the 10 facts about life expectancy in Singapore are the health system and how important health issues are addressed. With the intense focus has been put on making the lives of the country’s citizens better, life expectancy is only getting longer and elderly citizens must now learn how to finance their retirement to provide for themselves longer. The government is taking steps to help its aging population deal with their new reality by stressing the importance of mental and physical activity.

– Michela Rahaim

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Singapore
Along the southern coast of the Malay Peninsula occupying roughly 718 kilometers worth of estate lies the smallest nation of Southeast Asia.

Singapore, originating from the Malay word, Singapura, meaning Lion City, is home to a population of roughly six million people, a largely non-corrupt government and a near spotless metropolitan district.

From its diverse socio-cultural community to the clean and eco-friendly urban environment, Singapore boasts some of the highest living standards in all of Asia.

According to the 2018 World Happiness Report, the country has been deemed the “happiest country in Southeast Asia”.

Among the plethora of reasons supporting this title, in the article below top 10 facts about living conditions in Singapore that make it one of the friendliest countries in Asia and the world are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Singapore

  1. Singapore has a very competitive economy. Thanks to a corruption-free business environment, pro-foreign investment and export-oriented policies, Singapore features a highly developed free-market economy. Furthermore, secure property rights effectively promoting productivity growth and entrepreneurship contribute to Singapore’s economic status as the second freest among 43 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom.
  2. Singapore is a parliamentary representative democratic republic. As such, its stable political climate is based on rationality and the rule of law. According to the founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, his city-state seeks to offer first world conditions in a third world region.
  3. The country has an advanced education system. Singapore prides its education system for instilling students with a high standard of learning. The average number of years spent in the education system is 11.3 for males and 10.4 for females. Singapore’s three local universities: National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University are globally renowned. According to the 2018 Financial Times “Top 100 Global MBA,” they rank among the Top 50 International Business Schools.
  4. While Singapore has some of the strictest laws of nations worldwide, including capital punishment for drug possession and harsh penalties for disorderly conduct, the outcome has been a country with some of the lowest crime rates in the world. In Mercer’s personal safety ranking, Singapore placed first in Asia and eighth globally.
  5. Renowned for its technological advancements in medicine and practiced doctors, Singapore offers affordable health care and subsidized medical services through its public-private partnership in the health care system. The density of physicians to the population is 1.83 in 1,000 people. In 2010, in the World Health Organization’s ranking on the World’s 100 Best Health Systems, Singapore ranked sixth.
  6. Another positive product from Singapore’s abundance of stern laws is that the city is remarkably clean. With bans placed on public smoking and minimal traffic congestion, Singapore has maintained “good” to “moderate” range of air quality for much of 2017, according to the National Environmental Agency.
  7. For shopping lovers, Singapore is close to a dream come true. It is full of malls and department stores, carrying everything from the latest gadgets to popular clothing brands. Aside from dining and shopping, Singapore also offers a vibrant nightlife along with seasonal festivals and concerts.
  8. Singapore’s cultural network is composed of a unique array of multiple groups from Malays to Chinese and from Indians to expats from various countries. The city-state places a strong emphasis on community and racial harmony.
  9. The country has a very stable climate. Singapore’s climate resembles that of a tropical rainforest – it’s generally hot and humid year-round with prolonged periods of rain showers. The annual average high is 89 degrees Fahrenheit, and its annual total precipitation equates to 166 days of rainfall. The upside is that based on its geographical location, Singapore is generally safe from natural disasters.
  10. Singapore’s public transportation system consists of highly advanced modes of transit, including taxis, buses and the Mass Rapid Transport (MTR) rail system. Taxis and buses are also affordable, costing as little as $0.70 per trip.

As illustrated by this list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Singapore, that despite its strict laws and seasonal hot and humid climate, the Asian city-state vaunts numerous desirable merits.

With a diverse friendly culture, progressive political system and safe environment in addition to a multiplicity of other positive influential factors, Singapore rightfully earns its name as one of the top cities in Asia for a high quality of living.

– Johnna Bollesen

Photo: Flickr

SingaporeAccording to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, Singapore decreased 10 positions from last year in closing the gender gap. Singapore was ranked 65th out of 144 countries in economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and survival. Such standings indicate a need to bridge the gap and address the gender equality in Singapore.

Symbolically, the ascension of Singapore’s first female president may indicate a sign of improved broader access to politics for women; but this individual success brings Singapore only a little closer towards bridging the gender gap. The Ministry of Social and Family Development in Singapore remains committed to the protection of women’s rights and is taking steps to promote gender equality in Singapore.

5 Organizations Working on Gender Equality in Singapore

In addition to government agencies, there are also several organizations working to promote gender equality in Singapore by providing livelihood, job opportunities and fighting for women’s issues. Here are five organizations currently working towards women’s rights and protection.

Aidha

Aidha is a Singapore-based NGO that helps women become financially independent. The mission of the charity is that “by helping one woman, it can help improve nine more lives.” Aidha also provides financial literacy programs, computer literacy programs and entrepreneurial skills for Singapore’s foreign domestic workers and low-income women.

The organization’s aim is to help women help themselves by launching their own businesses or helping them invest in items like livestock in their home countries to better protect them against the cycle of poverty.

Aidha’s workshops, clubs and courses help students become literate in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), manage income and boost their confidence and social capital.

Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT) is a program which focuses on empowering underprivileged Singaporean women through confidence-building, skills development and employment channeling. Aidha is working with DOT to develop a 10-session financial literacy program for its clients and deliver the first program this year.

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations

The Singapore Council of Women’s Organizations (SCWO) was established in 1980 as the national coordinating body of women’s organizations in Singapore. SCWO has more than 50 member organizations, represents over 500,000 women and strives to unite women in Singapore to work toward ideals of ‘Equal Space, Equal Voice and Equal Worth.’

SCWO provides free legal clinics — with the support of volunteer lawyers from Singapore Association of Women Lawyers (SAWL) — for women residing in Singapore who face legal issues on personal matters, do not have legal advice or are unable to afford a lawyer.

One of their services includes providing shelter for women. SCWO’s Star Shelter opened in March 1999 and is a registered charity with IPC Status and the only secular crisis center in Singapore. Star Shelter provides a safe, temporary refuge for women and children who are victims of family violence, regardless of race, language, creed or religion. SCWO empowers victims to manage and take responsibility for their lives and assists them in rebuilding existences free of violence.

Apart from meals and lodging, Star Shelter also provides trauma/crisis counseling and case management. Through the “Rebuild” Program, SCWO provides a one-time financial aid to assist victims in paying for transport expenses while they look for employment; in addition, the program also offers a no-interest home loan.

Aware

Aware is an organization which works to remove all gender-based barriers and encourages gender equality in Singapore. Aware works in three ways:

  1. Research and advocacy
  2. Education and training
  3. Support services

AWARE believes in equal opportunity for both men and women in every field. AWARE is dedicated to removing gender-based barriers and providing a feminist perspective in the national dialogue.

The organization has effectively advocated against laws, public policies and mindsets that discriminate against women. AWARE’s support services provide crisis counseling, assistance in dealing with the authorities, and legal advice to women in need. We Can! is a popular campaign which works through Change Makers – individuals who commit to taking steps in their own lives to end violence.

The campaign aims to shake up social attitudes and beliefs that tolerate violence against women. They have conducted several workshops to this end, and forum theatre to reach out to people for support. The campaign has garnered 17,000 individuals and has worked with more than 96 organizations to fight for gender equality in Singapore.

 The Singapore Committee for UN Women

The Singapore Committee for UN Women is a self-funded, non-profit organization that works towards women’s empowerment and gender equality. The organization supports the general mission of UN Women by raising awareness and funding for Ending Violence Against Women, Economic Empowerment, and Governance and Leadership Programs in Singapore and the region. 

These campaigns include the SNOW (Say No to the Oppression of Women) Gala and Buy to Save fundraising events. In fact, 80 percent of the funds are dedicated towards local projects like Help Anna and Girls2Pioneers, while the remaining 20 percent is channeled towards supporting regional beneficiaries. The group’s HeForShe campaign works in favor of gender equality in Singapore and has around 10,000 commitments so far.

CRIB Society

The Singapore organization, CRIB Society (Creating Responsible and Innovative Businesses), combines social responsibility and innovative business practices to work more from the top down with female entrepreneurs and business owners. The organization uses this structure to then help create opportunities and jobs for other women.

CRIB has a group of mentors and emerging entrepreneurs who support, inspire and assist each other, and offers seminars, mentorships, a ‘matching’ program that puts together potential co-founders for new businesses and an incubator program.

These five organizations help encourage gender equality in Singapore and provide support for women in every field including education, employment, shelter and housing. The future is limitless for where these empowered women will go next.

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

Solve Education: Transforming Education in Developing Countries  
More than 250 million children do not attend school, according to UNESCO. After realizing that almost all NGOs only address this issue for a limited few thousand children, the famous venture capitalist Ong Peng Tsin became inspired to take a more revolutionary angle. Believing entrepreneurial investment in creative startups can increase social good for millions and eventually transforming education in developing countries, Tsin asked: 
“Can we teach without human teachers? Can you teach without schools?” 

What is Solve Education?

Gathering minds from the gaming industry, the social media world and pedagogues, Tsin then created a smartphone-based system called Solve Education. The company’s mission is to close the global education gap by taking advantage of the rise of smartphones and game mechanics to engage youths in accessible, educational opportunities.

Technology as a solution is relatively new to philanthropists worldwide, but the technology boom in Asia produces wealthy entrepreneurs looking to invest in social enterprise tech focused on multiplying impact with big-scale tech projects.

Naina Subberwal Batra, CEO of the Asian Venture Philanthropy network, distinguishes between the generation of philanthropists who say: “Let’s build schools; let’s put our name on buildings” and the newer group who’ve “made their money through tech. And if you really want to look at social enterprise tech is the fastest way to scale.”

EdTech Investments

Global investors in the first half of 2017 have poured about $8.15 billion into edtech ventures. As a whole, the Asia-Pacific region has been predicted to own 54 percent of the global edtech market by 2020. Google and KPMG reported that India’s online education market will reach about $1.96 billion in the next four years, which equates to about the $1.2 billion invested in Chinese edtech companies in 2016.

The interest in edtech investments aligns with the fact that Asia has more young people than any other continent. Parents in Singapore invest about $70,939 annually for their children’s education, which is almost twice the global average amount. China, in its 13th Five-Year Plan, is encouraging the development of online education to gradually modernize China’s education system with $30 billion in investments by 2020. Other countries in Asia have similar plans revolving around increasing tech education.   

As part of an emerging style of philanthropy, Solve Education uses technology to take part in transforming education in developing countries by incorporating educational games to teach children across Southeast Asia. Solve Education hopes to reach 100 million people in teaching them basic vocational skills.

A Powerful Organization Advocating For Good

Tsin’s self-funded initiative, this application will be based on its initial success to essentially create millions of workers that will generate revenue flow in their field. So far, the initiative is being used in the following countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Requiring only low-end smartphones and intermittent internet service, this application reaches those that are marginalized by education systems and opportunities.  

This crowd-working model is not a guaranteed success, but it does broach the issue of limited and inaccessible education in an innovative and optimistic way. It provides more opportunities for the youth, ethnic minorities, immigrants and refugees, women and girls, the unemployed and others that generally have difficulty gaining access to quality education.

All in all, Solve Education is a powerful nonprofit in its resourceful intersection of social good ambitions and use of rising edtech in transforming education in developing countries.

– Alice Lieu

Photo: Flickr