Our social compact
Singapore is a society with opportunities for all, regardless of background and starting point in life. This is enabled by a social compact anchored on individual responsibility, family as the first line of support, and the community complementing the Government’s efforts to provide additional support to those in need.
This compact broadly comprises five enablers:
- Education as a social enabler
- Extensive subsidies for healthcare and housing
- Support to keep Singaporeans employable and uplift wages for the lower-income and broad middle
- Support for retirement needs
- Social and community assistance for the lower-income and vulnerable groups
Improving lives of those in need
Income inequality, based on the Gini coefficient, has been falling in the past decade, due in part to the measures that support more individuals to be in employment and enhanced social policies. The Gini coefficient, after accounting for taxes and transfers, declined to a historical low of 0.375 in 2020 due to the extensive COVID-19 relief measures, before rising slightly in 2021 with the cessation of some one-off COVID-19 measures. The Gini coefficient, before accounting for taxes and transfers, also fell in 2021 due to stronger income recovery among lower-income groups.
COVID-19 and rising cost pressures have put a strain on households, especially the lower-income. Targeted COVID-19 social support schemes were launched to provide help to lower and middle-income groups, in addition to broad-based measures to support workers and jobseekers.
Around 91,100 individuals received about $177 million in ComCare cash assistance in Financial Year (FY) 2021, a 5% and 25% decrease respectively from FY2020. This reflected an improvement in the economy in 2021, compared to 2020 when Singapore was still in the thick of the pandemic. However, the number of ComCare beneficiaries has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Read more: ComCare Annual Report FY2021
The Social Service Offices (SSOs) worked with public agencies and community partners to coordinate social support for families in need, including support to seek employment, secure stable housing, and meet healthcare and educational needs. Under ComLink, SSOs and community partners have reached out to over 11,000 families with children in rental flats since 2019. As at September 2022, over 2,000 volunteers and 190 businesses and other community partners were part of the ComLink Alliance, providing more than 220 programmes and services including enrichment classes, employment coaching, and health services to these families.
Family makes progress towards stability, self-reliance and social mobility with ComLink support
Madam K was a divorcee with four children. As the sole breadwinner, she worried about providing for her family and wants her children to do well.
Through ComLink, Madam K’s family received comprehensive, convenient, and coordinated support from public agencies and community partners. For example, groceries were provided on a weekly basis while Madam K’s youngest son attended a youth drop-in centre to keep him meaningfully engaged after school hours. This has enabled Madam K to focus on her job as a warehouse assistant with peace of mind.
With ComLink’s support, Madam K and her family are working steadily towards their goals, including owning their own home.
Ensuring safety of children, youths, and vulnerable adults
In 2021, there were about 2,140 new child protection cases and 200 cases involving the abuse of vulnerable adults, up from about 1,300 and 170 respectively in 2020. This was driven by the increased stress experienced by families during the pandemic, greater public awareness of family violence, and reduced stigma of reporting.
- The refreshed “Break the Silence” campaign was launched in November 2021 to build greater awareness of the different types of abuse, including psychological and sexual abuse. The campaign had a total reach of more than 22.2 million views as at February 2022. As part of the campaign, training on family and domestic violence awareness has been delivered to over 3,100 participants from more than 40 organisations across the people, public, and private sectors.
- To make reporting simpler and more accessible, the 24-hour National Anti-Violence Helpline was expanded in May 2022 to cover sexual violence and sexual harassment. As at September 2022, the expanded helpline has handled 16,300 calls.
- We have developed five Specialist Centres which adopt a trauma-informed and family-centric approach to support and empower survivors of family and domestic violence, and at-risk children. For 2020 and 2021, about 4,700 new cases received support from these centres. More than 2,000 sector partners have also been trained to better detect safety concerns and offer timely support to families.
We are also supporting youth offenders in their rehabilitation journey. The three-year recidivism rate of youth offenders who have gone through the Guidance Programme, probation, or the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Youth Homes decreased from 14.9% for the 2016 cohort to 12.2% for the 2017 cohort.
- In 2021, the Youth Advisory Group and SG Cares Volunteer Centres partnered the Government to engage youth probationers in community service projects. With the collective support of families, volunteers, and community partners, 87% of the probationers discharged in 2021 completed their probation – the highest since 2012.
- Since 2021, youth offenders have received post-care support from social sector professionals after leaving the MSF Youth Homes. Through schools, workplaces, and interest groups, the support has helped them sustain skills and habits learnt in the youth homes and helps them maintain stable and healthy relationships.
Strengthening support for persons with disabilities
Singapore has made good progress towards being a fairer and more inclusive society through the initiatives under the 3rd Enabling Masterplan (2017-2021).
- The average employment rate of resident persons with disabilities aged 15 to 64 years rose from 28.2% for 2018 and 2019 to 30.1% for 2020 and 2021.
- Over 3,500 persons with disabilities were placed into new jobs through the Open Door Programme as at 2021.
- In 2021, 27,000 students with special educational needs were supported in mainstream schools while 7,000 were supported in 21 government-funded special education schools.
- 5,900 children with developmental needs benefited from a range of affordable early intervention services in 2021 under the Development Support – Learning Support and Development Support Plus programmes, as well as the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children.
- The 31 Day Activity Centres supported over 1,300 persons with disabilities and their caregivers with day care and community living skills training in 2021.
- 100% of public buses were wheelchair-accessible as at December 2020, with 100% of bus interchanges and 98% of bus stops also barrier-free.
In August 2022, the Enabling Masterplan 2030 was launched following extensive consultation with persons with disabilities and caregivers, as well as community partners and the public. The masterplan sets out the vision for Singapore as an inclusive society in 2030. The Government has accepted all the recommendations in the masterplan and will work with the people and private sectors to implement them.
Building a strong social service sector
Social Service Agencies (SSA) are key community partners in building a more inclusive and caring Singapore. As at October 2022, over 500 SSAs support and complement the Government’s efforts to provide a social safety net for those in need, with over 84,000 beneficiaries served through community-funded programmes in 2021. We have also been working closely with the social service sector to support their capability and capacity building.
- In the last two years, over 270 SSAs received support for technology solutions, as well as advisory and consultancy services. These SSAs achieved productivity gains of between 10% to 30% and at least 70% client satisfaction in service delivery for supported projects.
Digitalising the way SSAs work
Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS) deployed the Robot Ella to better care for and support clients with autism spectrum disorder in honing their social skills, through interactive lessons with simplified language, visual icons, and clear emotional expressions.
All the service users who regularly engaged with Robot Ella saw a significant improvement in social interaction, with 80% reporting a smooth and comfortable experience. CPAS also saw a 14.7% improvement in staff productivity after Ella’s deployment, with the staff working with Ella reporting a satisfactory user experience.
- Over 260 SSAs benefitted from The Invictus Fund, which marshalled $29 million of support between June 2020 and September 2022 to help them pivot, digitalise, and transform their operations.
- The Social Service SkillsFuture Tripartite Taskforce has supported social service professionals to strengthen their relevance and be better equipped to uplift those in need. Efforts include enhancements to the competency roadmaps and professional development pathways for Early Intervention and Family Counselling professionals, benefiting over 580 professionals and counsellors.
- The Community Capability Trust, a long-term fund of up to $480 million, was set up in April 2022. The fund expands on the work of the previous VWOs-Charities Capability Fund especially in capability areas such as innovation and productivity, volunteer management, and financial sustainability.
COVID-19 donations and volunteerism
While there was a decline in overall volunteerism and the donation rate during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were promising developments in the giving landscape.
- Volunteering with the social service sector increased by 8% between 2018 and 2021.
- Fundraising by ComChest averaged $56 million yearly from FY2016 to FY2019. For FY2020 and FY2021, ComChest raised about $87 million and $61 million respectively due to increased contributions for COVID-19-related causes.
- In FY2021, the Community Foundation of Singapore raised $46.6 million. This was a 31% increase from FY2019. The foundation also established the Sayang Sayang Fund in February 2020 to support individuals affected by the pandemic, raising $9.6 million in donations to support 360,000 beneficiaries as at April 2021.
In addition, online donations and volunteering sign ups grew 29% and 37% between 2018 and 2021. The Giving.sg donation platform raised $98.3 million in FY2021, a 148% increase from FY2019.
Read more: Individual Giving Study 2021
Read more: Building Our Future Together
Refreshing our social compact
Even as we tackle the challenges of today, Singapore must consider the needs of tomorrow. As part of the ongoing Forward Singapore exercise, we look to refresh our social compact for Singapore’s next bound of development, and review the shared responsibilities that individual Singaporeans, families, communities, and businesses should uphold under this refreshed compact. We want to build a more caring and inclusive society where individuals and families are committed to care for one another and do the best for themselves. In addition, the Government will work closely with businesses and community support groups to strengthen support for disadvantaged families so that they can achieve stability, self-reliance, and social mobility.