Mental Health In SingaporeDespite its burgeoning tourist economy and its perception of glamour, wealth and abundance, Singapore is known for having one of the worst mental health epidemics in Southeast Asia. From an overall displeased labor force to a rising suicide rate, it is clear that external factors like the COVID-19 virus and culture have had a large impact on mental health in Singapore. Today, one of the largest cited contributors to mental health globally is an over-reliance on social media. While social media can be a positive space to share mental health challenges, it can also lead to feelings of shame and low self-esteem, which can result in poor educational and academic attainment. Social media can play a unique role in the link between mental health and poverty in Singapore.

Social Media and Mental Health

The correlation between social media usage and poor mental health predictors traditionally found general agreement in the idea that too much social media could lead to anxiety and/or depression. However, recent research from Harvard University indicates that our collective perception of social media as “all bad” may be false. Rather, the study argues that it has to do more with how you use social media and the way you perceive your interactions on and off the platforms. While many have commented on the widespread de-stigmatization of mental health issues as real and equally as important and valid as physical health issues, the Asian stereotype of mental health issues as unimportant or irrelevant still poses a problem for this new generation of Singaporeans.

Singapore and Mental Health

In 2020, “‘The Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a suicide prevention organization, received over 39,000 calls for help – an 18% increase from the year before.” This indicates a rising need for mental health support in Singapore as a result of concerted efforts to isolate during the pandemic. In addition, The Straits Times reported in a 2021 article that seven out of 10 mental health organizations experienced a 20-60% increase in queries and mental health crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s more, Singapore’s labor force is exhausted. In a study for Milieu Insight, in partnership with Intellect, they found that though Singaporeans tend to work less, they also report the lowest levels of engagement and job satisfaction than their regional counterparts. Beyond engagement and job satisfaction, Singaporeans also rank the highest for negative reports on the average quality of sleep and overall enjoyment of life.

Many of these issues have contributed significantly to the persistent wage gap in Singapore, as they arise before an individual has the chance to establish themselves academically or in a vocation. In Singapore, many of those who suffer from mental illness do not have mental health care from the insurance plan Medishield, and “rely solely on Medifund (a default support mechanism).” Unfortunately, Medifund does not receive adequate funding from taxpayers who are fearful of those with mental illness. Facing discrimination and limited access to health care, those with mental health issues and low income exist in a situation that perpetuates. Additionally, those who suffer from mental health issues can quickly devolve into poverty without adequate support and/or funding.

Singapore Wellness Hub

To combat this, TikTok launched a new Singapore Wellness Hub in honor of World Mental Health Month, which aims to combat anxiety and uncertainty through education and action-oriented solutions. In essence, its focus is on creating safe spaces that allow for community building and the sharing of personal experiences. Launched in October 2021, the platform offers three distinct offerings. Under its ‘Wellness Matters’ section, users can access techniques grounded in positive psychology principles, like breathing or body awareness exercises, relaxation techniques and tips for visualizing safe spaces. Under its ‘Stories’ section, users have the opportunity to share their experiences through the platform’s short-form video capability.

Lastly, under the app’s ‘Support Helpline’ section, users can reach out to various nonprofit organizations, and various helplines like SOS that are easily accessible through the hub. Its impact has been huge and many influencers like Skincarebyhyram, Lewis Howes and Dr. Alex George have found their niches within the Wellness space on TikTok as well, making it a great place for users and content creators alike.

Looking Forward

While it may be too soon to determine the effect that TikTok’s new Wellness Hub may have on the status of mental health in Singapore, it is a good first step. As high-traffic platforms like TikTok begin to create spaces on their apps where people find accurate information about mental health and well-being, there exists a collective de-stigmatization of mental health and a fostering of community and belonging. These improve mental health and subsequently lower global poverty rates. Therefore, while there is more work to be done, a coming-together of organizations is a great first step in educating communities where mental health is heavily stigmatized and stereotyped. Addressing the link between mental health and poverty is necessary in combating global poverty rates across the world.

– Julia Shanta
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in SingaporeImproving renewable energy is vital to Singapore. The country is in the process of enacting its Green Plan 2030, a sustainability project designed alongside the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which places the eradication of poverty as the ultimate aim. Sembcorp Industries and Singapore’s Energy Market Authority (EMA) officially opened Southeast Asia’s largest Energy Storage System (ESS) on Feb. 2, 2023. According to Sembcorp, it is also the fastest ESS of its size to be built and deployed in the world, taking just six months to complete. Aside from contributing to global sustainability, the ESS will also diversify Singapore’s energy sources and drive down energy bills, which many of Singapore’s poor are struggling to pay in a post-pandemic world.

What Is An ESS?

The Energy Storage System (ESS) stores renewable energy in Singapore so that it wouldn’t go to waste. It provides a relatively reliable source of energy from renewable sources when environmental conditions prevent its immediate generation. Typically the energy is stored in batteries, which run on charge and discharge cycles so that eco-friendly energy is released during times of peak electricity demand. Sembcorp’s ESS comprises of more than 800 lithium iron phosphate batteries, which have high energy density, fast response time and high round-trip efficiency, making them perfect for efficient energy storage and release on demand. A central control station controls the charge and discharge times of the hundreds of batteries, responding to peak times of supply and demand in Singapore. This means that eco-friendly energy is powering people’s daily lives, even when renewable energy in Singapore is not being actively generated.

Why Is It So Valuable For Singapore?

Singapore has traditionally found it hard to establish reliable sources of renewable energy due to its tropical climate. Wind speeds are not high enough for wind turbines to operate productively and it lacks a fast-flowing river or sufficient sea space that can be used to generate hydroelectric power. In 2021, nonrenewable sources of energy, namely oil, coal and gas made up 99.6% of the nation’s consumption. Therefore, the Sembcorp ESS represents a major advancement in the search for sustainable renewable energy in Singapore. Even in the face of mostly bad weather year-round, the ESS will ensure that eco-friendly sources of energy are at hand, even if only temporarily.

The Sembcorp ESS has a maximum storage capacity of 285 Megawatt hour (MWh). It claims that it is able to provide one full day’s worth of electricity to 24,000 Housing & Development Board (HDB) households in a single discharge. This equates to around 2% of total HDB households and 1.7% of total households in Singapore. While this number may not seem significant, Singapore’s ESS, Southeast Asia’s largest, is a sign of its commitment to tackling global issues like changing weather patterns and poverty.

How This Helps Singapore’s Poor

Singapore’s efforts to increase the general availability of renewable energy can help to address its low-income population’s struggles to meet the increasing costs of living. Very little is known about Singapore’s poor because the government is yet to implement an official poverty line. MP Janus Lim of the Singapore Workers’ Party brought up this problem in Parliament on April 17 this year, noting the lack of attention given to low-income Singaporeans precisely because of the dearth of information about them. Notably, in bringing the hardships of Singapore’s poor to light, Mr Lim focused on their difficulty to meet increasing necessity costs in a society still recovering from the effects of Covid-19. He stated that inflation “continues to eat away at incomes” and that the lowest-income workers’ expenses have grown nearly five and a half times faster than their salaries.

Rising energy costs worldwide in recent years are at the heart of Singapore’s inflationary problems. As the cost of energy goes up, the costs of production of many items have also increased. Consumers are more often than not forced to bear the burden of these increased costs. In Singapore, this is clearly happening without a proportionate rise in wages at all levels of the economy. Singapore’s ESS may alleviate energy costs in the long term. As renewable energy becomes a larger source of energy consumption in Singapore, the country will begin to decrease its historically complete reliance on oil and gas, much of which it imports. This means that over time, Singapore’s dependence on the global market for oil will go down, leading to stabilized energy costs and costs of living.

Singapore As a Role Model

While Singapore’s ESS is yet to bear statistical fruit, its investment in this significant project will alleviate poverty and improve the country’s sustainability. While energy prices worldwide are finally starting to deflate after the global crises of the late 2010s and early 2020s, they will remain too high for many of the world’s poor. Mr Lim’s comments show this to be true of Singapore, despite it being a country which most outsiders regard as one of the wealthiest in the world.

Improving access to renewable energy may be an expensive solution that may not yield immediate results, however, this is precisely why wealthy trend-setter countries like the U.S. and U.K. should invest more in these projects. By leading a potential global movement to increase worldwide access to and usage of renewable energy, future generations of global citizens will no longer have to worry about price fluctuations when the dominant energy sources of today, non-renewables, become scarce. If anything, Singapore’s success over time is proof that change does not have to come immediately.

– Tiffany Chan
Photo: Flickr

Deaf in Singapore
Hearing impairment worsens many of the challenges of everyday life, including for the deaf in Singapore. There are currently around
500,000 hearing impaired and deaf people within Singapore. This accounts for about 8.4% of the total population of 5.95 million people as of September 13, 2022.

The Singapore Association for the Deaf is a nonprofit that provides essential services to the hearing impaired. This nonprofit’s vision is “to be the leading (organization) in advocating equal opportunity, in all aspects, for the Deaf and Hard of hearing and supporting them to reach their full potential.” This organization originated in 1955 and provides support in many different forms. This support ultimately allows the deaf in Singapore to reach a comfortable level of success.


The Mayflower Primary School provides general education to hearing-impaired children. Two separate teachers who create lesson plans specially tailored to the deaf (one teacher is provided by the Singapore Association for the Deaf) lead each classroom. The lessons include the use of Singapore Sign Language to properly teach core subjects to the hearing impaired.

Upon graduation from Mayflower, students can transfer to Beatty Secondary School. This school provides similar services to Mayflower in terms of teaching the hearing impaired. Additionally, this school provides emotional support as well as aid with assistive devices to their students. Trained staff are provided to this school through the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

The Mountbatten Vocational School provides specific professional training to the deaf in Singapore. This school allows its students to obtain ITE certification (Institute for Technical Education) through a comprehensive two-year program. The program includes “electrical wiring,” “plumbing,” “residential air conditioning” and other forms of training. 

Support Services for Students

Deaf students in Singapore are aided with adjustment into public schools through the Itinerant Support Service. Both the students and their families have involvement in this process to best accommodate the needs of the hearing impaired.

Social workers help the deaf and their families address issues such as “information and referral, case management, counseling, financial assistance and also make school visits.” Educational support is also provided to enhance skills related to core topics and in turn aid integration into public schools. Another form of support that aids with integration into public schools is speech therapy, where deaf students develop “listening and articulation skills.” 

Services for the Deaf

The Singapore Association for the Deaf provides a variety of services to the hearing impaired in Singapore. The services are on the organization’s website. 

  • “Information services” – information for clients as a guide for how to use community resources.
  • “Counseling”- emotional support for the deaf in Singapore.
  • “Financial Assistance”- aid with applications to national financial assistance programs. These include the Assistive Technology Fund (ATF) and the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF).
  • “Employment”- aiding the hearing impaired with finding deaf-friendly employers.
  • “Volunteer Activities”- the organization cooperates with Voluntary Welfare organizations to provide the necessary support to the deaf in Singapore and “empower” them through various activities. This includes the “Social Group of the Deaf” which encourages physical exercise and healthy lifestyle choices for the hearing impaired.

Sign Language Coursework

Singapore Sign Language is a hybrid form of sign language that combines aspects of Shanghainese Sign Language, American Sign Language and other lesser-known forms of sign language. The Singapore Association for the Deaf provides coursework that occurs online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hearing Care

The hearing care center provides health care services related to hearing and the devices used to aid the hearing impaired. Every registered client at the Singapore Association for the Deaf has entitlement to one free hearing test per year. The organization also offers ear impressions/molds to provide clients with the proper assistive devices for their bodies.

The organization also provides free hearing aids to members of the organization. Additionally, the organization sells batteries and additional accessories for hearing aids. All of the aforementioned services are essential for the hearing impaired to live with relative normality among their peers. 

Other Medical Assistance

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prominence of telehealth services rose significantly. This was especially true in Singapore as the government distributed Ministry of Health phone numbers to access assistance and information about COVID-19. This proved unsatisfactory for the deaf in Singapore due to them being unable to talk over the telephone.

After some complaints, the Ministry of Health announced a partnership with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Singapore Association for the Deaf to create a more convenient solution. The organizations proceeded to create an SMS and email service as well as services for sign language interpretation. The programs allow the deaf in Singapore to receive accurate information about COVID-19 and respond accordingly.

The Singapore Association for the Deaf provides necessary aid and subsequently enables the hearing impaired through their various programs. This organization sets a strong precedent for other hearing-impaired organizations to follow.

Max Cole
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Singapore’s Domestic Workers
Domestic workers make 17% of Singapore’s workforce. Most of this population comes from nearby Southeast Asian nations such as Myanmar, Indonesia or the Philippines. Almost six in 10 of these domestic workers face abuse at the hands of their wealthy employers, ranging from verbal abuse to being deprived of food and essentials. According to CNN, 84% of interviewed workers described working more than 12 hours a day.

Causes for Migration

As CNN reported, an estimated 56% of Singapore’s domestic workers come from the Philippines. While the Filipino economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world, the nation is still plagued with a 16.7% poverty rate. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase of 3.4 million unemployed people within the Philippines, further encouraging migration to affluent Singapore in search of job opportunities.

Most domestic workers are female, and they work in Singapore to supplement their family’s income. According to CNN, remittances home from people working abroad were more than $45 billion in 2015. That is around 12% of the Phillippines’ gross domestic product.

Life as a Domestic Worker

The average monthly income of a domestic worker in Singapore is $381 a month, often including meals and board, as CNN reported. Singapore’s domestic workers make one-tenth of the national average monthly income of $3,694. National law does not require official contracts between domestic workers and employers, which allows income to vastly vary from month to month. Workers often send money to their families overseas. Many must pay for basic necessities such as toiletries and clothing despite Singapore’s law requiring employers to fund these items.

All foreign domestic workers in Singapore live at the home of their employers, the DW reports. Despite the Singapore government’s recent changes that require one day a week off for all domestic workers, 41% of workers report having to work on Sunday, according to CNN. Many did not know that they had the right to have this day off until the agency leading the survey contacted them.

Pilot Scheme

A new scheme that the Association of Employment Agencies in Singapore introduced facilitates the entry of Indonesian and Filipino domestic workers due to a recent shortage under COVID-19. Singapore’s domestic workers returned to their home countries as soon as they could in order to be with their families, leaving numerous families without the house help they depended on. This scheme requires employers to pay for a domestic worker’s COVID-19 test and all other arrival charges in exchange for guaranteed arrival.

With families facing shortages of house help, leading them to value their work and the introduction of a new, government monitored program for Singapore’s domestic workers, the future looks far brighter. While Singapore’s affluent society must learn to respect and value their domestic help, government intervention is key to ensuring that domestic workers retain their rights.

– Shruti Patankar
Photo: Flickr

Singapore’s Lenient Plan
With COVID-19 cases rising due to the Delta variant, many countries are returning to strict mandates and lockdowns, as seen at the beginning of the pandemic. Singapore, a country that endorsed strict COVID-19 restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic, is now adopting a more lenient model. This model eliminates lockdowns, large-scale contact tracing and travel-related quarantine measures, among other measures. Going even further, Singapore would no longer tally daily COVID-19 cases. Singapore’s latest lenient plan for mitigating COVID-19 aims to help the country quickly recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Vaccination as a Key Component to Singapore’s Plan

The world holds Singapore in high regard for its initial success in containing the pandemic through a swift COVID-19 response and stringent measures. Vaccination is a crucial component to the success of Singapore’s new lenient plan. Singapore’s COVID-19 task force makes it clear that eliminating COVID-19 entirely is not a realistic short-term solution. The task force suggests that learning to properly manage and live with COVID-19 is a much more effective strategy. Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung made this clear to the Straits Times. He says, “We can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza, hand, foot and mouth disease or chickenpox, and get on with our lives.”

Vaccinations are effective in mitigating the risk of contracting COVID-19. While there is no guarantee that vaccinated individuals will not contract the virus, vaccination helps to mitigate the severity of symptoms experienced, reducing the likelihood of hospitalization and decreasing strain on healthcare systems. Singapore predicts that about 66% of its population will be fully vaccinated by the end of August 2021. A majority vaccinated population will allow the country to employ this lenient model without significant harm.

Immediate Effects of the Plan

The beginning of this more lenient plan has shown a spike in cases connected to the opening of a karaoke lounge. Singapore reported 56 cases on July 14, 2021, 41 of which were tied to karaoke lounges. While this number may seem low, it is the highest spike Singapore has experienced in 10 months. As a consequence, Singapore has reevaluated its leniency, tightening restrictions once more and slowing down the implementation of its plan, with certain exemptions for vaccinated individuals only.

COVID-19’s Disparate Effects on the Impoverished

Like many other countries worldwide, COVID-19 has hit Singapore’s impoverished the hardest. The economic crisis caused by the initial onset of the pandemic forced businesses to close their doors, causing widespread job losses and a decrease in employment opportunities. Low-income families have suffered greatly from job losses and the downturn of the economy. Low-income families have little monetary buffer to support them through economic shocks, and thus, struggle to find the means to purchase food and necessities at an even greater rate than before the pandemic came about.

As Singapore begins to ease restrictions, employers can increase working hours, which will allow job opportunities to arise. Singapore’s lenient plan will allow the economy to fully reopen, allowing those in food service and other service-based jobs to resume employment. This means employees will receive paychecks to help them support themselves and their families.

The Good News

With about  71% of the population in Singapore fully vaccinated as of August 14, 2021, the country is well on its way to a 100% fully vaccinated nation. If Singapore can successfully reopen without significant spikes in COVID-19, then activities should resume as normal. Overall, Singapore’s plan, if successful, will allow the economy to heal and help low-income families begin to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Lily Vassalo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Singapore
Like most of the world throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has undergone a health and economic crisis while battling the novel coronavirus. However, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Singapore has disproportionately affected Singapore’s low-wage migrant workforce as the country continues the fight against the virus and the race to distribute vaccines.

COVID-19 Within Singapore’s Low-Wage Workforce

As early as the fall of 2020, Singapore seemed to return to life as normal with restaurants reopening and malls filling with crowds. However, the nation’s low-wage workforce, which included primarily migrant workers, faced a COVID-19 surge and a battle of its own.

Singapore’s low-wage workforce consists of more than 300,000 foreign construction and manufacturing workers from countries such as India and Bangladesh. These workers live in crowded dorms throughout their work period where COVID-19 quickly becomes rampant. Migrant workers accounted for nearly 95% of the country’s novel coronavirus cases as of September 8, 2020. With the placement of quarantine orders on these workers after numerous outbreaks, many had to stay in hot, overcrowded rooms without ventilation. As a result, the workers became exposed to the virus.

These workers have been extremely vulnerable to both the novel coronavirus and economic fallout due to factors such as overcrowded dorms, “hazardous working conditions,” low pay and lack of access to social protection. Many workers did not receive full wages throughout the quarantine order and faced high health costs when eventually returning home.

Poverty in East Asia: The Effects of the COVID-19

Despite recent post-COVID-19 economic recoveries in many East Asian countries, the World Bank reported that emerging post-pandemic recovery is and will continue to be uneven as the country’s most impoverished bear the brunt of the COVID-19 economic crisis. Poverty in East Asia and the Pacific stopped declining for the first time in more than 20 years as an estimated 32 million citizens across the region were unable to escape poverty as a result of unequal access to social, medical, educational and technological support.

A Future of Hope and a United Fight

Hope for Singapore’s citizens continues to come in the form of vaccines. More than a third of the country’s 5.7 million citizens have been fully vaccinated and nearly half of the population received at least one dose of a COVID-19 shot as of June 19, 2021. The government plans to complete vaccinations by the end of 2021.

Additionally, the World Bank Group has begun numerous relief programs in Eastern Asia and the Pacific region. Part of the organization’s $125 billion fund will go toward combating the “health, economic and social impacts” of the novel coronavirus globally and the World Bank Group plans to establish COVID-19 fast-track facilities. The World Bank Group intends to provide emergency funding for medical supplies and medical training while also working to strengthen national public health systems.

Returning to “Normal”

As Singapore eases back into normality as its population becomes vaccinated, a new awareness of social inequality is spreading domestically and internationally. A BBC article from September 18, 2020, states that the crisis exposes a “pandemic of inequality” within the country. Meanwhile, a foreign policy piece, published on May 6, 2020, describes Singapore’s lack of action in combating the economic crisis as a failure to see migrant workers as people.

While inequalities and poverty in Singapore have worsened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, activists around the world and across the nation are advocating for better conditions and awareness as the reopening process occurs. Organizations such as the World Bank Group, the Human Rights Campaign and Amnesty International are continuing to provide aid and advocacy for extremely impoverished people in Singapore. As the country climbs out of the COVID-19 pandemic, a future of hope and awareness presents itself. There is hope that the distribution of vaccines, education about the crisis and international funding will reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Singapore.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

Engineering Good On April 7, 2020, Singapore commenced its Circuit Breaker — a series of measures designed to restrict social interaction — in an effort to safeguard the country from COVID-19. The government eased the restrictions after June 1, 2020, but the economic consequences reverberated long after, including a spike in unemployment and an estimated GDP contraction of 2.2%. As in other countries, low-income families in Singapore were more adversely affected by the pandemic and the disruptions that came with it. Impoverished Singaporeans felt a disproportionate impact, particularly in education, as students transitioned to home-based learning in compliance with Circuit Breaker measures. Parents and children from low-income households felt the proverbial rug pulled from under their feet as they scrambled to access laptops and reliable Wi-Fi routers and struggled to create an environment conducive to learning. Fortunately, Engineering Good stepped in to help with its Computers Against COVID campaign.

Engineering Good

Engineering Good, a Singapore-based charity established in 2014, supports low-income families and people with disabilities by improving their digital literacy and access to technology. Responding to the urgent need for laptops that arose due to home-based learning, Engineering Good refurbished secondhand laptops for low-income families in Singapore. The project became its flagship campaign, Computers Against COVID.

Computers Against COVID

The Computers Against COVID campaign began when the South Central Community Family Center reached out to Engineering Good requesting 24 laptops for low-income families in Singapore to support households’ home-based learning efforts. Leveraging the power of social media, the charity made requests to the public to donate their old laptops and computer accessories.

The response to Engineering Good’s social media campaign was overwhelming. Within two weeks, the charity had recruited more than 100 volunteers and received more than 600 laptops as donations. In an interview with The Peak Magazine, the executive director of Engineering Good, Johann Annuar, attributed the campaign’s success to Singaporean people’s desires to give back to society. The goodwill of donors and volunteers has enabled what was meant to be a one-weekend project of fixing a few laptops to transform into a more than year-long community endeavor.

As of May 2021, Engineering Good has refurbished and donated more than 4,000 laptops for low-income families in Singapore. The charity continues to receive requests of up to 200 laptops each month and works with around 200 social service organizations that help identify those most in need.

Continuing to Fight Digital Inequality

Given the Computers Against COVID campaign’s success, Engineering Good is now looking to transform the project into a long-term, sustainable initiative. The charity hopes to continue providing laptops and technical expertise to anyone in need, whether it be for home-based learning or other purposes, such as remote work. Invigorated by a sense of purpose, the organization’s volunteers are eager to continue making a difference, especially after realizing, as one volunteer described it, that “an extremely tiny sacrifice’’ of one’s time to fix a computer could potentially transform a family’s life for years.

While the issue of digital inequality has long loomed large in Singapore, COVID-19’s subversion of work and student life has accentuated the urgency with which both the public and nonprofit sectors must address the digital divide. As Engineering Good supports low-income families through laptop repair and other services, public demand for further government action is growing. As Singapore’s digital divide closes, impoverished families are able to participate in endeavors that educate and empower them, allowing disadvantaged Singaporeans to rise out of poverty.

Vyas Nageswaran
Photo: Flickr

Women in SingaporeIn 1961, young girls and women in Singapore received the promise of change when the country passed the Women’s Charter legislative act. The Women’s Charter establishes the regulation of romantic and family relationships. The act keeps the door open for Singaporean women to make decisions in their lives, such as who they marry and divorce. It also protects against family violence and holds criminals accountable for offenses toward women of all ages. Though this is the intention of the Women’s Charter, the statistics for prosecution, rape, domestic violence and citizens’ views of women in Singapore do not align with it.

Equality and Domestic Violence

Singapore struggles with gender equality, with 57% of Singaporeans believing men are the head of the household and should have the upper hand in decision making. However, 52% of Singaporeans expect women to take on household roles such as chores and caregiving. Domestic violence is another issue women in Singapore frequently face. One in 10 women experiences a lifetime of physical violence by men. In addition, 83% of Singaporeans encourage women to stay in violent relationships under some circumstances, including for a child’s sake.

Unfortunately, 71% of women in Singapore who experience abuse from a partner are not likely to make a police report. This leads to six out of 10 Singaporean women suffering repeated victimization. The safety of these women is at risk due to the lack of respect fellow citizens have for women. Regarding sexual assault, 40% of Singaporeans between the ages of 18-39 and 50% of Singaporeans aged 40 and older believe that women who wear revealing clothing are asking to experience assault and should be responsible for their harassment.

The Lack of Sexual Assault Justice

The majority of women in Singapore have not received the justice that the Women’s Charter promises. On January 5, 2021, Minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam announced that there were 6,988 reported cases of sexual assault in Singapore. Out of these 6,988 cases, 1,368 led to prosecution, resulting in only 931 criminal convictions. Out of the 1,368 who authorities charged, 1,364 had prior sexual assault convictions.

Minister Shanmugam, a former lawyer and Singaporean politician, discussed flaws within the nation’s system. He admits that “The government does not track the use of alcohol, drugs or prevalence and diagnosis of psychiatric conditions in relation to sexual assault offenders.”

Governmental Changes

In September 2020, Minister Shanmugam announced an evaluation of women’s issues in Singapore, led by three female political officeholders. The convention subsequently occurred in October 2020. Officials discussed handling sexual offenses, potential increases of penalties, criminalization of conduct and factors authorities should consider when assigning sentences.

Shanmugam opens up about the country’s societal views. He states, “I think a whole society mindset change is necessary. The government has got to lead it with the right pieces of legislation.” He adds, “We need men to be part of the mindset shift — to embrace the changing aspirations of younger women as equal economic partners and facilitate their success in the workplace by sharing in household and caregiving responsibilities.”

With the ongoing issue of victimization, Shanmugam reflects, “We need to try and deal with that —  how we encourage, so people report. And, once the report is done, taking action thereafter is easier.”

AWARE Improving Lives

AWARE is one of the many NGOs working on improving the lives of women in Singapore. Its vision is to create a society where there is true gender equality. In this community, people would see both men and women as individuals with the right to make responsible and informed decisions for their lives. AWARE’s mission is to remove all gender-based barriers through its research, advocacy, education, training and support services.

AWARE launched the Sexual Assault Care Centre in 2014 to support survivors of sexual assault. Throughout 2017, the Sexual Assault Centre saw a 57% increase in cases. The NGO also created a Women’s Care Centre, a helpline that provides information and support for Singaporean women in distress. In 2018, the Women’s Care Centre saw 32% more helpline calls and 48% more counseling clients. Furthermore, AWARE has collaborated with police in developing a new training video to help supplement police officers’ understanding of the behavior and feelings of victims and how police and responders impact these victims.

Bringing awareness to the hardships women in Singapore face is crucial. However, with the help of AWARE and Minister Shanmugam, steps are being taken to safeguard the well-being of women.

– Alexis Jones
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty In Singapore
In Singapore, elderly people from the age of 65 and up formed 15.5% of the country’s total population, ranking among the most rapidly aging communities in Asia besides Japan. This has been due to the improved healthcare system and living standards that have significantly decreased the mortality rates over time. Research shows that between 2012 and 2015, poverty in Singapore increased by 43.45%. Poverty levels among the old age population increased by 74.32% in the same period. The increase in the elderly population has increased dependency on the working-age population, with most having to return to work after retiring. Here are four reasons for the increase in elderly poverty in Singapore.

Lack of Government Foresight

Singapore developed rapidly over the last few decades, however, studies indicate that only a proportion of the population enjoys wealth. In 2013, the government reported that 105,000 households experienced poverty, which was one in 10 families.

During its planning, the government lacked foresight resulting in it failing to consider some important factors. These factors include longer lifespans of the elderly, the fact that savings from their years of labor would depreciate annually and the fact that they have varying education levels due to not always being able to access formal education. Poor communication skills, high medical costs and inefficient government support programs are some of the reasons that contribute to increasing elderly poverty in Singapore.

Lack of Efficacy

Government support is key to alleviating poverty in many countries. Singapore’s government has put in place programs to assist the poor, such as ComCare, a short to medium-term assistance scheme. However, the lack of education and confusion around the processes and criteria of this program frequently discourages the elderly from applying for the help they need. Citizens aged 55 and over included only 35% of applicants of ComCare in 2015, even though the elderly make up a large portion of Singapore’s impoverished. Moreover, high medical care costs due to age issues may also deplete the assistance provided—retirement income adequacy declines due to decreased social security benefits and less income from pension benefits.

Lack of Financial Planning

Financial planning among individuals is also to blame for the skyrocketing levels of elderly poverty. Insufficiency in funds to live a complete life due to poor personal decisions, such as engagement in drugs or refusing to relocate for employment, is a frequent cause of this. As such, inadequate financial resources and the poor management of these resources are the root cause of financial adversities.

Most older adults in Singapore are poor due to forced retirement. The statutory age of retirement is 62. Many employers also coerce elderly employees into early retirements to avoid higher taxes and expenses. This leaves little notice for a lot of elderly Singaporeans to save at an earlier stage. Additionally, financial education does not receive priority, leaving many in Singapore vulnerable to avoidable mistakes.

Changes in family structures and lifestyles coupled with the increased costs of living have also increased the levels of elderly poverty. Therefore, this has necessitated good financial planning, necessary at a younger age for better old age.

Lack of Training

The elderly lack the communication skills required for positions in the service industry. Singaporean language policy, which eliminates other Chinese dialects except for Mandarin, marginalizes the old since most of them can only communicate in Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese. Therefore, positions in customer service or as receptionists are consequently out of reach for many leaving only the option of manual labor.

A lack of communication skills can also affect an individual’s social mobility, as limited communication can make upgrading skills for the purpose of improving one’s job a tall order. The government provides language courses, but it does not tailor the courses to the illiterate, who would instead use their time to generate income. Overall elderly poverty further ties to other factors such as health, education and job opportunities, which also constitute the determinants of socio-economic state in old age.

The Tsao Foundation

During its developmental stages, Singapore did not adequately spend on welfare and social policies, spending more on its pursuit for economic development. However, NGOs exist that are providing long-term solutions to elderly poverty in Singapore. An example of this is the Tsao Foundation. For 28 years, it has developed training and financial education opportunities, as well as community-based elderly care to help transform the aging experience in Singapore. The Foundation was even able to continue its mission remotely through COVID-19 through its pre-existing online Expert Series, allowing people to continue their education throughout the pandemic. The Tsao Foundation aims to help shape an inclusive society that promotes intergenerational solidarity, benefiting everyone involved.

It is important to prioritize education and to create opportunities throughout every generation. Through the efforts of the Tsao Foundation, the intent is that elderly poverty in Singapore will not continue.

– Simran Pasricha
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Singapore
Period poverty in Singapore is not only detrimental to the poor, but it is particularly detrimental for women in poverty. Unfortunately, many do not see period poverty as a substantial issue. Rather than appropriately encouraging and educating adolescent women about their menstrual cycles, many women receive shame for it. Mental health and physical issues are also apparent due to period poverty in Singapore. The lack of access to proper menstrual materials pushes Singaporean women into using unsafe materials for their cycles. As a result, women develop a number of health issues such as bacterial vaginosis, urinary tract infections, green or white vaginal discharge and vaginal and skin irritation.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues are also important to consider when discussing period poverty. It is a serious necessity to one’s overall well-being and when overlooked, it can have drastic consequences. Individuals who experience severe aversive conditions such as shame and guilt are more likely to experience negative mental issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In Singapore specifically, it is taboo to discuss one’s menstruation cycle.

This resulting cultural attitude that egregiously directs shame toward Singaporean women and children can make women more likely to develop PTSD. Even in cases when PTSD is not present, findings have determined that the absence of proper menstrual products is due to higher rates of depression, anxiety and distress. Naturally, the issue with period poverty also has links to issues of other forms of poverty. Vanessa Paranjothy recounts that this is especially arduous in areas where there is a lack of running water, plumbing and electricity. Another issue regarding menstruation mishandling in Singapore involves women’s lack of access to the materials necessary to overcome period poverty.

Freedom Cups Helping Women

However, women in Singapore have found their own ways to address the period poverty crisis. One example includes a group of sisters, Joanne, Rebecca and Vanessa Paranjothy and their creation of Freedom Cups. These devices function as reusable tampons and pads, effectively containing menstrual blood. As long they receive proper washing, these devices are re-usable for a span of up to 10 years, without the high risk of infection as with reusing pads. Moreover, these items are able to gather menstrual fluid for up to 12 hours per individual use.

Due to the reusability of these Freedom Cups, women are able to better afford the product, without furthering their fall into period-related poverty. Additionally, the Paranjothy sisters supply one freedom cup to another woman in need for each cup sold. So far, the sisters have distributed Freedom Cups to more than 3,000 women. This, however, is not the end of the sisters’ efforts. They continue making efforts across the world to end period poverty, such as in the Philippines.

Further Initiatives

Widespread organizational efforts also address period poverty in Singapore. Groups such as The World Federation of United Nations Associations had marked success with its Mission Possible: Singapore or Pink Project. This project involved the mass donation of menstrual and other health products to the Star Shelter as well as the Tanglin Trust School and the advertisement of the issue of period poverty to the areas.

However, of all of the efforts done to alleviate period poverty, foreign aid and involvement are the most crucial. The issues that exist regarding menstruation mishandling in Singapore are reflective of many of the issues across the world. Many women still experience feelings of shame and a lack of adequate care when it comes to their menstrual cycles. Vanessa Paranjothy recounts that, despite their efforts to initially provide Freedom Cups to women in the Philippines, only married women received them.

Without the continued investment into education regarding how to perceive their bodies and access to suitable menstrual materials, women will continue to suffer the adverse effects of period poverty. However, actions involving donation and innovation of feminine hygiene products, such as those the Paranjothy sisters made, and a greater emphasis on sexual education can help alleviate period poverty in Singapore and other developing countries.

– Jacob Hurwitz
Photo: Flickr