A lookback at social measures through the years
Singapore’s society is changing rapidly. The population is ageing, families are getting smaller, and social needs are growing and becoming more complex.
While many of us enjoy strong family and community bonds, it’s important not to forget those who could benefit from an extra helping hand.
Similarly, the Government will continue to support Singaporean families, assist the needy, and encourage greater community efforts.
Here’s what we’ve been spending on to build an inclusive and caring society, where Singaporeans can improve their lives, where the vulnerable are supported, and where everyone can look to the future with optimism.
Reaching Out to Lower and Middle-Income Families to Keep Up Social Mobility
Our standard of living has been improving steadily. Singaporean households have seen broad-based growth in incomes over the last decade.
While we have been relatively successful in achieving broad-based prosperity so far, managing the issues of income growth, inequality and social mobility is by no means an easy feat.
We want those with less means, as well as their children and family members, to have equal opportunities. In past Budgets, we have introduced or enhanced measures such as Workfare, GST Vouchers, the Silver Support Scheme, housing grants, and education subsidies to help lower-income earners and their families.
For middle-income families who also face challenges, such as the loss of job security, unemployment and rising cost of living, we have strengthened employment support through schemes such the “Adapt and Grow” initiative and SkillsFuture Study Awards, which were enhanced in Budget 2016 and introduced in Budget 2015 respectively. Bursaries for ITE and diploma students, and university undergraduates were also increased in Budgets 2014 and 2017.
A targeted and multi-pronged approach that builds up on earlier Budgets helps our lower-income families aspire towards better a quality of life for themselves. By providing opportunities for individuals to move up in life regardless of where they start from, we can keep up social mobility.
Providing More Support for Our Elderly to Age in Place
By 2030, it is projected that one in four Singaporeans will be 65 years old and above. As the population ages, we have been planning and building infrastructure, rolling out support, and improving workplace policies to help seniors age actively and confidently.
One such measure is the Silver Support Scheme, introduced in Budget 2015. A permanent feature in the national social security system, lower-income seniors at the bottom 20 to 30 percent can receive regular cash payouts to supplement their retirement income.
Meanwhile, those who wish to monetise their HDB flats can make use of the Lease Buy Back Scheme or Silver Housing Bonus, which can provide added retirement income. For seniors who intend to continue working, a Special Employment Credit was enhanced and extended till 2019 to encourage employers to hire older workers.
This set of schemes, as well as other supporting measures, puts in place a positive approach towards ageing and allows seniors to enjoy peace of mind in their later years.
Enabling Those with Disabilities to Lead Independent Lives
Through past Budgets, we have also been building an eco-system of support for Singaporeans with disabilities, as well as their families and caregivers.
Since 2007, three Enabling Masterplans, which are five-year roadmaps to integrate and support those with disabilities, have been implemented to enable Singaporeans with disabilities to develop their potential through education and training, find jobs, and lead independent lives.
The third Enabling Masterplan in 2017 extended more employment support and caregiver support to those with disabilities, on top of existing schemes such as early intervention, tax reliefs and transport subsidies, among others.
Investing in Quality Healthcare Infrastructure to Meet Future Needs
With a rapidly ageing population and an increase in number of people with chronic conditions, we are making huge investments in healthcare infrastructure to ensure our population of accessible and affordable quality healthcare in future.
Two new general hospitals, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Ng Teng Fong Hospital, have begun serving the public. At the same time, we are building and upgrading existing general and community hospitals, nursing homes and polyclinics, while increasing the pool of healthcare professionals.
In 2017, $10.7 billion has been allocated to healthcare sector to increase its capacity and ensure that Singaporeans have better access to affordable quality healthcare. This figure is projected to grow from $4 billion to $13 billion by 2020.
Working hand in hand with social measures to improve Singaporeans’ quality of life as a whole, we are also channeling more resources to improve our transport system and living environment.
In Budget 2017, more than S$20 billion is expected to be invested over the next five years. Our train network will almost double by 2030, which will improve Singaporeans’ commute. Neighbourhoods are being transformed under the Remaking our Heartland programme, and heartlands shops are also being rejuvenated under the Revitalisation of Shops package, which was enhanced in Budget 2016 to better support promotional activities and upgrading projects.
Through the annual Budget, funds are allocated to different schemes and programmes, collectively intended to provide stronger support to Singaporean individuals and families. But the needs are many, and as we continue to provide such assistance, we need to continue adhering to the key principle of spending carefully, prudently, and in a targeted manner, so that future generations will not be saddled by any unwise financial decisions that we make today.
At the same time, the building of a strong Singapore society does not come about solely through state action. Each of us has a role to play, whether as individuals, as organisations, or as companies. The Government may facilitate the efforts, but it’s for Singaporeans together to seize the mantle directly in creating a better tomorrow for themselves and for each other.