Social Policy in an Ageing Society

Social Policy in an Ageing Society

Age and Health in Singapore

David Reisman

Around half the world’s population live in countries where the fertility rate is far below the replacement rate and where life expectancy is increasing dramatically. Using Singapore as a case study, Social Policy in an Ageing Society explores what might happen in a dynamic and prosperous society when falling births, longer life expectancy and rising expectations put disproportionate pressure on scarce resources that have alternative uses.

Chapter 11: Conclusion

David Reisman

Subjects: asian studies, asian economics, asian politics and policy, asian social policy, economics and finance, asian economics, health policy and economics, public sector economics, politics and public policy, asian politics, social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, health policy and economics


On the one hand there is automaticity, gravity, social evolution, kaleidoscopic mutation and the invisible hand. On the other hand there is direction, plan, social engineering, visionary leadership and the philosopher king. In the middle there is social policy. Purposive, open-minded and adaptable, its function is to bridge the gap between freedom from and freedom to. Its task is to bring about a mixed society in which there is a socially acceptable balance between efficiency and equity, economic expediency and moral values. We do not need social policy if the natural order is the better way to put a chicken in every pot: ‘Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of affluence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice’ (Adam Smith, quoted in Rae, 1895: 62). Nor do we need social policy if there is not a lot that even the wellintentioned and the well-educated, the omniscient and the beneficent can do to bend back the bent rod: ‘We do not have policies about the weather because, as yet, we are powerless to do anything about the weather’ (Titmuss, 1974: 24). We do, however, need social policy where real-world outcomes are falling short of our reasonable expectations and where we are as confident as human beings can ever be that skilled plumbers will successfully plug the leak. Social policy in an ageing society is no different from social policy anywhere else. There is a problem. The elderly need...

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