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3 Nonprofits Addressing Food Insecurity in SingaporeLocated off the southern tip of Malaysia, Singapore, one of Asia’s wealthiest nations, boasts a thriving economy and impressive infrastructure. Despite this, the perception that all of its 5 million citizens live above the poverty line is misleading. In reality, numerous Singaporeans struggle to meet basic needs, with many earning insufficient incomes to secure stable food supplies. Consequently, food insecurity remains a significant concern within the country. As of 2023, more than 10.4% of Singaporean households have experienced food insecurity. Elderly residents, single-parent households and others with limited financial resources are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.

3 Nonprofits Fighting Food Insecurity

With one in 10 households facing food insecurity, several nonprofits are stepping up to address this pressing issue.

  1. Willing Hearts. Founded in 2003, Willing Hearts began by distributing food to homeless individuals in Singapore. Now, the organization mobilizes volunteers who dedicate four hours per session to prepare meals, including tasks like cutting vegetables, washing dishes and packaging food boxes for distribution daily. In addition to kitchen work, Willing Hearts recruits volunteer drivers to deliver these meals across various neighborhoods. This nonprofit is committed to reducing food insecurity, making it easier for anyone interested to sign up and contribute to their cause.
  2. Food from the Heart. Founded in 2003, the nonprofit Food from the Heart focuses on food distribution in Singapore. In 2021, it positively impacted 59,500 individuals by redistributing surplus bread from restaurants and food vendors. This initiative, known as “bread runs,” has provided more than 14,000 people in need with fresh bread. Additionally, the organization supports children from low-income families by distributing “goodie bags” containing food items. These bags have reached children in more than 40 schools, with more than 16,000 bags distributed. Food from the Heart’s efforts significantly alleviate food insecurity among both adults and children in Singapore.
  3. The Food Bank Singapore. Founded in 2012, The Food Bank Singapore aims to eradicate food insecurity across the nation. This nonprofit gathers surplus food from restaurants, grocery stores, farms and various other sources, distributing these resources to more than 300 soup kitchens and other organizations focused on combating food insecurity. By repurposing surplus food, the organization not only addresses hunger but also reduces food waste significantly. The Food Bank Singapore welcomes food donations and offers volunteer opportunities for individuals to help sort and organize food items in their warehouse.

Looking Ahead

Tackling food insecurity in Singapore continues to be a pressing issue despite the country’s overall affluence. Organizations like Willing Hearts, Food from the Heart and The Food Bank Singapore are vital in mitigating this problem by providing meals and redistributing surplus food to those in need. Their efforts support vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and single-parent families, underscoring the importance of community-driven initiatives to ensure everyone has access to sufficient and nutritious food.

– Poppy Duggal

Poppy is based in Singapore, and focuses on Good News for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Migrant Workers in SingaporeFor many people, dorm rooms evoke memories of sharing close quarters in college or the halcyon days of summer camp. However, in Singapore, dorm rooms mean something very different: the cramped and inhumane living conditions of the migrant workers who form the backbone of Singapore’s economy.

About Migrant Workers in Singapore

Migrant workers, primarily from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Bangladesh, compose 38% of Singapore’s labor force and play a particularly crucial role in the construction, manufacturing, maritime and service industries. A particularly large contingent of these foreign workers are classified as migrant domestic workers (MDWs). These workers, who are predominantly female and make up 4.4% of Singapore’s population and 7.3% of its labor force, are particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse and overworking.

Unhealthy Living Conditions

Human Rights Watch has reported that up to 20 workers are packed into the same room and forced to share a single bathroom. These cramped living conditions are often unsanitary and proved particularly hazardous during COVID-19 when strict government lockdowns forced workers to remain in hot, crowded dorms that lacked proper ventilation. In the early days of the pandemic, 90% of Singapore’s COVID-19 cases were among migrant workers.

Migrant workers in Singapore often find themselves in precarious positions because their work permits and legal status in the country are tied to their employers. Foreign domestic workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation because they are excluded from many labor protections, including paid days off and limits on working hours. In addition, foreign workers are barred from organizing and taking part in labor unions.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has also found a concerning decline in positive attitudes toward migrants, even toward the foreign domestic workers that many Singaporeans come into personal contact with every day.

Solutions

Despite the many challenges facing migrant workers in Singapore, various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are working to address these issues. Its Raining Raincoats is a charity focused on providing services for migrant workers in need, with the broader goal of ensuring that they are welcomed and integrated into Singaporean society. The charity runs various welfare programs that ensure migrants have access to dental and vision care and assist them with salary and employment issues. It also provides English language, financial literacy and first aid classes. In 2023, the charity raised more than $1.2 million for migrant workers and distributed more than 650,000 essential items, including meals, bikes, phones and glasses.

Additionally, the Migrant Workers’ Center, established in 2009 as a collaboration between the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation, is an NGO that advocates for the uniform application of fair employment practices. It provides free legal advice, humanitarian assistance and peer support networks, among other services. It also offers an associate membership for just $6 a year, which allows migrants to access critical health and disability insurance in addition to benefits.

Despite public opinion and the dearth of substantive government action, these NGOs are working to improve the lives of migrant workers in Singapore.

– Josephine Koch

Josephine is based in New York, NY, USA and focuses on Politics for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in SingaporeSingapore is a country at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula in Southeast Asia. The country gained independence from Malaysia in 1965 and has a population of around 5 million. While Singapore is an extremely wealthy country with a thriving economy and a world-class health care system, the nation still faces public health challenges. HIV/AIDS continues to cause significant harm and impact in Singapore.

A Recent Spike in HIV Cases

Between 2007 and 2017, the average number of HIV diagnoses remained around 400 to 500 cases per year. In the years following 2017, the number of cases decreased to around 300 per year. More than 50% of diagnosed cases were late-stage HIV, and 93% of cases resulted from sexual intercourse.

In 2023, after a few years of significantly low numbers of cases, the number of cases spiked again. In the first 10 months of 2023, there were 10% more HIV detections than last year.

Although the number of cases in Singapore is relatively low, the Singapore government has responded to the slight spike in cases. In a public advisory report, a representative from the Ministry of Health stated that every adult should do HIV testing at least once in their life. In addition, sexually active adults should get regular testing once every six months and wear protection during sexual activities, according to Channel News Asia (CNA).

Promoting Testing by Reducing Fears

Due to the rise in cases, the Singapore government is placing a large emphasis on HIV testing. With more people testing, the government hopes to make more diagnoses, resulting in more people getting the proper treatment. To encourage more testing, the Singapore government has changed a law, making it no longer necessary for individuals to disclose their HIV status to their sexual partners. This law, however, only applies to individuals with an “undetectable viral load.”

This law change will reduce the fear many Singapore residents face when deciding whether or not to get tested, according to The Straits Times. Individuals will no longer have to worry about telling their partners if their HIV test comes back positive. They will be able to treat it or reduce symptoms and then return to their regular sexual behaviours if they are no longer contagious. The government recognized that high-risk individuals feared getting tested because they would be obligated to inform their partners of their potential positive HIV status.

Action for AIDS

In addition to government support, Action for AIDS, an active nonprofit organization since 1988, has been working to mitigate the issue of HIV/AIDS in Singapore. Many Singaporeans have not received proper HIV/AIDS prevention education, so Action for AIDS fundraises to ensure that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, can get education and testing. Individuals in poverty or with lower incomes are less likely to be properly educated about HIV/AIDS and less likely to know when to get tested.

So far, Action for AIDS has brought sex education to a wider audience and encouraged many Singaporeans to undergo more frequent testing. Through increased education and promoting more testing for all, this organization aims to end HIV/AIDS in Singapore.

Conclusion

While the slight spike in HIV cases in Singapore is concerning, the government’s proactive measures demonstrate a commitment to tackling this public health issue. By reducing the common fear that arises when individuals make a decision about testing, Singapore is revising legislation to promote more frequent testing. The goal of increased testing is that everyone who needs treatment will receive it. This approach reflects the Singapore government’s dedication to maintaining the health of its population, ensuring that the country continues to thrive even in the face of public health challenges.

– Poppy Duggal

Poppy is based in Concord, NH, USA and focuses on Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Pixabay

Gender Wage Gap in SingaporeThe latest updates showed that the unadjusted gender wage gap between male and female full-time employees aged 25 to 54 in Singapore has been narrowed down from 16.3% in 2018 to 14.3% in 2023, according to the released infographic figures from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). According to United Nations data, Singapore ranks as “the second-most unequal developed economy in the world.” “Singapore does not have an official poverty line … Most Singaporeans are not aware of the scale and depth of poverty in Singapore,” stated a report from the Singapore Management University’s Lien Center for Social Innovation.

Unequal Earnings

The gender dimension is one of the most significant contributors to economic disparity and poverty in Singapore. Recent data from MOM highlights that women, despite having equivalent working hours and qualifications, earn less than men. These unequal earnings impact women’s financial stability, limiting their access to essential services such as health care and hindering their ability to save adequately in the Central Provident Fund (CPF). Women have about 40% less CPF savings compared to men, which underscores why 64% of women, versus 38% of men, depend on immediate family members for assistance with medical expenses, according to a 2010 health-care financing study by the National University of Singapore and Singapore Health Services.

The adjusted gender gap involving human capital and the labor market is 6.0% in 2023, lower than 6.7% in 2018. According to MOM’s report, the adjusted gap “is the unexplained component from the decomposition, which is the remaining gender pay gap between men and women employees after adjusting for both human capital and labor market factors where data was available.” The report considered, particularly, the occupational segregation of male and female employees as the main driver behind the gender wage gap in Singapore.

The report concluded three factors that could impact women’s choice of occupations: personality and skills; psychological traits; social norms and values. “These factors would continue to influence one’s choice of occupation, their career progression and earnings,” according to the report.

Unfair Treatment

A recent survey implied that in 2023, female employees still think they are not treated fairly regarding job compensation. In Singapore, 59% of investigated women employees said that they had an unfair base salary, and only 33% of them felt they were satisfied with the payment. Although the job market enhanced advocacy for diversity and encouraged women to have career paths in STEM, the fight against gender wage bias still has a long journey. 

The gender pay gap is a concerned issue for the government and society in Singapore. In 2022, the White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development aimed to support female employees in acquiring equal wages and flexibility in the workplace. In a total of 115 pages, the White Paper gave a call to all Singaporeans to equal job opportunities, caregiver support, mindset shifts in the workplace, etc. 

Minister Tan See Leng said that a closure in the gender wage gap in Singapore might need a “multi-pronged approach.” Fortunately, the Singapore government is striving for more equality in the job market by partnering with schools, industry, and the community to implement the SG Women in Tech movement, aiming to train and involve more talented female employees in the tech industry. 

Tan also mentioned that the government has been advocating for equal sharing of caregiving responsibilities in families by “increasing Government-paid paternity leave from two weeks to four weeks.” MOM has introduced a guideline on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) to assist employee’s requests for FWA. The government will also introduce the Workplace Fairness Legislation that sets goals to protect employees from discrimination in the workplace, according to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Increase in PMET Occupations

By 2018, the number of women who have at least a diploma qualification rose to 71%, which is almost double higher than that in 2002, according to a 2020 report. While traditional occupations such as nurse and accountant still significantly represent women’s labor market in Singapore, there is a large increase in women’s share among professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs). From 2018 to 2023, the percentage increase in female PMET occupations is 2.5% more than that in males, according to MOM.

With the aid of Flexible Work Arrangements, women now have increasing participation in economic activity by enjoying equal educational and workplace opportunities. In the past decade, female employment for ages 25-64 increased from 69.2% to 76.6%, and the employment gap with men has decreased from 20.1 to 12.4 percentage points.

The Singapore government also works with the Council for Board Diversity to improve women’s share on the boards of the top 100 companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX). The percentage of women on boards increased from 7.5% in 2013 to 22.7% in 2023. Statutory Boards also had a nearly 10% increase in women’s representation, according to a 2024 report.

– Cindy Hong

Cindy is based in Milpitas, CA, USA and focuses on Business and Celebs for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Unsplash

Financial Assistance Schemes for Singapore's Low-Income Families Financial assistance schemes in Singapore aim to help low-income families equip their children for future success. Despite challenges in measuring poverty within Singapore, data reveals that the country ranks 26th out of 136 nations for income inequality, making it the second most unequal in Asia. A primary cause of global poverty is the inability of low-income families to provide education for their children, which often leads to high unemployment rates and significant poverty levels. This issue is a concern in Singapore, but the government has recently implemented measures to tackle it, reflecting a commitment to addressing income disparity and promoting educational opportunities.

Impact of Poverty on Educational Success

Studies indicate that poverty significantly impacts children’s ability to succeed in educational settings. Children born into poverty from birth to age 2 are 30% less likely to complete high school, severely limiting their future opportunities. Those who do not finish high school often struggle to find employment as adults. Research by the Center for Universal Education has revealed that millions of children reach adolescence without acquiring basic skills. In developing countries, individuals lacking skills contribute to higher poverty rates. UNESCO reports that 59 million children are out of school.

Government and Organizational Support for Education

The Singaporean government, along with organizations like the Ministry of Education Financial Assistance Schemes (MOE FAS), actively provides financial aid to low-income families to help cover school-related expenses. For primary and secondary school students, MOE FAS completely covers school fees, standard miscellaneous fees, school uniforms, meals, transportation subsidies and textbooks. For pre-university students, the organization provides all the aforementioned support plus a $1,200 cash bursary.

Extended Financial Aid

Ongoing financial assistance schemes extend beyond primary and secondary school students. The Singaporean government subsidizes a large portion of educational costs for citizens pursuing higher education at publicly-funded institutions. Additionally, the Ministry of Education provides financial relief to students in Special Education (SPED) programs. The SPED Financial Assistance Scheme (SPED FAS) offers waived school fees and supplies materials for low-income families with students who have disabilities.

The Role of Subsidized Education in Social Inclusion

The Ministry of Social and Family Development reports that a subsidized education is a key component of the Singaporean approach to social inclusion and social mobility. Subsidized education is reportedly instrumental in the creation of equal opportunity. Moreover, ensuring a quality education is a conduit for what the ministry calls “leveling up,” which involves ensuring that students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds can still become successful and stay on an educational track.  

Looking Ahead

Singapore’s financial assistance schemes aim to provide low-income families with greater access to educational resources. By expanding these initiatives, the government seeks to address income inequality and improve social mobility. As these programs continue to develop, they focus on enhancing educational opportunities for young Singaporeans and contributing to a more equitable society.

– Hailey Nurry

Hailey is based in Pennsylvania, USA and focuses on Good News and Technology for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Disability Support in SingaporeAccording to the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), 3% of Singapore’s population has a disability. This group of people endures societal exclusion and a lack of consistent investments, which inhibits their opportunities to get ahead, succeed and contribute to the economy. However, several organizations are working to provide disability support in Singapore as individuals work their way up the economic ladder and stay out of poverty.

SPD

SPD is a nonprofit established in 1964 to help people with disabilities maximize their potential and integrate into society. This organization is funding programs that provide services to people of all ages with disabilities and their families to ensure that they have all of the resources and tools needed to reach goals and attain economic wealth.

One program focuses on delivering early intervention services as soon as possible in order to enhance the outcomes of children with disabilities. This is particularly when it comes to succeeding in the school system just as much as children without disabilities.

Another program focuses on providing occupation therapy and speech therapy to people with disabilities, with the goal of them learning to manage their disabilities. Furthermore, SPD is dedicated to offering disability support in Singapore by equipping individuals with the job training and essential skills required to secure well-paying positions within the private sector.

SG Enable

SG Enable, established by the “Ministry of Social and Family Development in 2013,” is another nonprofit organization working to provide disability support in Singapore, particularly for those with visual or hearing difficulties to live as personally and financially independently as possible.

One way that SG Enables is doing this is through job development programs, which concentrate on creating jobs for people with disabilities and linking them to jobs within other organizations. Another way that this organization is working to achieve this objective is through its job training programs, which are designed to provide people with disabilities with the skills needed to raise their likelihood of qualifying for jobs in the private sector.

Disabled People’s Association

The Disabled People’s Association is a Singapore nonprofit “organization for people with disabilities run by people with disabilities.” It is also working to help people with disabilities with their education and career aspirations as well as with transportation needs to get to work and school.

The organization provides disability support in Singapore through legal representation and advocacy for their rights. This effort impacts their activities in education, in the workplace and society as a whole. It also delivers workshops to train disability advocates on how to properly represent people with disabilities and stand up against any form of institutional seclusion from society.

Furthermore, the organization advocates for policy reforms. It also communicates with elected officials in the country as well as with other influential organizations like SG Enable to continue to expand the rights and liberties of people with disabilities.

Touch Community Services Organization

Touch Community Services is another not-for-profit initiative in Singapore. The group partners with other disability organizations in Singapore to deliver resources and programs for people with disabilities. Touch Community Services’ mission is to adhere to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The group believes that can only be achieved if the health, safety and success of people with disabilities are advocated for.

This mindset plays a role for the organizations continuing to provide resources to those who care for people with disabilities through workshops and support groups. Since its inception, it has touched nearly 280,000 leaves, attracting 14,000 volunteers and its Wellness Group program has helped more than 164,000 people with cyber and mental fitness.

– Ryan Patrick 

Ryan is based in Brooklyn, NY, USA and focuses on Good News for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons