Our social safety net approach continues to put family as the first line of support. MOH talks about aging in place. The reality is, these 2 dovetail into an untenable care load on women when it comes to elderly care. Because when we say “family”, most of the time it is daughters who end up caring for aging parents.
As much as filial piety is a valued and important virtue in our Asian society, it should not come at the expense of one’s old age financial adequacy. Mothers and daughters who care for children and elderly parents are facing poverty in their old age. As MOS Gan previously shared, women lose an average of 8 years of career and income, often when their careers can be peaking after their 30s, due to familial care. For women who are in low wage work, livelihoods can be lost for years, alongside with opportunity cost in CPF savings.
Of course, the profile of those impacted by familial care is not homogeneous, there are also men whose jobs and careers are impacted by caregiving. There are also men who are single fathers sandwiched between eldercare and childcare as their parents age.
We need differentiated policies for low-wage caregivers and those from higher income groups.
For the low-wage caregivers, I implore MOF and MSF to do a joint study on the recipients of long-term Comcare to examine how many recipients become reliant on financial assistance in their old age, due to caregiving obligations in their younger years which kept them from participating in the labour force.
The research will help us project any trends into the future to better understand the reality of our aging society on low wage individuals. We need to take a more data-driven approach towards ensuring better retirement adequacy for the low-wage and sandwiched generation of caregivers, and to assess whether a basic income for stay-home caregivers might be a viable and dignified way to distribute social support.
The savings reaped from reducing the need for institutionalised care for seniors, if transferred into basic income for stay-home caregivers, could help to save on long term Comcare spending.
Through a basic income mechanism, the narrative for old age financial dependency is shifted from “I am old and useless and dependent on welfare to feed me” to a dignified self-perception of “I am valued for the care that I provided”.
This goes a long way to instill self-worth in those who provide care for better mental health, dignity and self-esteem as they age.
As I previously proposed, a “Carefare Income Supplement” will go a long way to support stay-home caregivers, affirming that they play a valued and important role, and are not just “calefare” in our society, excuse the pun. Carefare is a way to ensure dignified aging for low wage caregivers.
As for PMEs earning higher income, who also struggle with juggling familial care and work, I would like to suggest simplifying childcare and eldercare into a general “Family Care Leave”. This family care leave will ensure that both married people and single people will have leave they can use for any family emergency. Such simplification will also enhance the momentum by corporates to offer more autonomy to employees in how they manage their time, improving work place satisfaction and morale.
My honourable colleague, MP Ng Ling Ling, spoke about getting AIC involved in the alliance for workplace improvement.
To prevent abuse of family care leave, we can require employees to register themselves as primary caregivers to their family members with AIC, and allow firms to log leave utilization on the same platform to qualify for government incentives. Incentivizing firms through corporate tax reliefs for family care utilization may be one way to encourage more progressive workplace policies, leading to higher job satisfaction for employees and better mental well-being which are both helpful for increasing productivity.
I urge MOM, MOF, MOH and NPTD to consider these solutions together so that there is concerted effort to achieve our shared goal of society made for families.
Watch the speech here.