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Singapore—Global Policy Brief

by Shanyuan Foo

October 2009—Demonstrated in the Global Policy Brief on Singapore's Public Policy from the Sloan Center for Aging and Work, The Singaporean government has taken certain steps to account for the rapidly changing population and economic situations in the country. Singapore has one of the fastest-aging populations in Asia, and the government faces many challenges in developing policies to accommodate the age shift. In particular, the Singapore economy has a serious shortfall of manpower, as the state’s Total Fertility Rate continues to fall below replacement level and the population contiues to age. The government has attempted to resolve this issue through several approaches:

  • using incentives to encourage educated women to give birth and have more children;
  • increasing the age of retirement from 62 to 65 through the Guide on Age Friendly Employment Practices;
  • instituting the Re-employment Act in 2012 to facilitate employment of older workers;
  • developing a fund for programs that train older workers to increase their viability in the economy; and
  • allowing employers to reduce employees’ wages by up to 10% once an employee reaches 60 years of age.

The Singapore government has not actively pushed laws on flexible working schedules, but rather, through the Work Life Works! Fund, provides grants to firms to adopt flexible hours as part of their “work-life balance” aim, in order to resolve the issue of falling fertility rates and a growing aging population.

While these steps have been commendable, the results are inconsistent. Low-skilled elderly workers are especially vulnerable given the potential mismatch between their skills and what the economy requires, and the potential difficulties in funding retirement given the state’s adherence to the non-welfare state policy. The quality of employment for older workers also seems daunting because the limited legal protection for workers’ rights and the ability of employers to cut wages without a clear framework of what constitutes reduced output/productivity makes the situation murky.

In the state’s effort to alleviate some of the pressure of the increasing costs of the elderly population, it continues to promote the nuclear family as the source of financial support for the elderly. With the size of the population decreasing, this reliance becomes increasingly strained, creating a sandwich generation of middle-aged citizens who are responsible for their children as well as their elderly dependents.

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