Social Policy in an Ageing Society
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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.
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Chapter 7: Home and Family

David Reisman


The economy is First World. The culture is Asian. Most people in Singapore generally believe in the time-honoured pattern of sequential responsibility. The parents look after their children when uneconomic infants are defenceless and weak. Later on the children look after their parents when the old people are too feeble to work. The Chinese have traditionally lived by the saying ‘Raise children to guard against old age’. Ethnic Indians and ethnic Malays are no less prone to make the network of kin their first port in a storm. In a sense they have no choice. In some countries there is a pooled, State-administered old-age pension. In Singapore there is CPF. If the annuity does not buy the rice, the family will have to look after its own. Section 1 of this chapter shows what it means to say that old people become the dependants of their caring children. Section 2 suggests that modernity and economics are leaving some old people precariously on their own. Section 3 examines the role of nursing homes when the family will not or cannot provide. Section 4 assesses ElderShield insurance which pays out for home nursing when an old person cannot dress or wash. ElderShield is not perfect. At least it is a stop-gap when the family is not enough. 7.1 THE FAMILY IN SINGAPORE The national ideology teaches ‘many helping hands’ but also crossgenerational commitment. Lee Kuan Yew as the founding father laid down the fundamental principle that, while the West may be comfortable...

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