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Maryam Mokhtar
Friday, May 30, 2014

Singapore

Parliament: WP's Chen Show Mao and PAP's Cedric Foo debate on immigration

The Straits Times | Maryam Mokhtar | Friday, May 30, 2014

SINGAPORE - In a clarification to Mr Chen's earlier speech, which focused on successful ageing in Singapore, Mr Foo asked the former if he felt it necessary for the inflow of immigrants in the long-term future to deal with the country's ageing populace.


Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Here is a transcript of the speech delivered today by Mr Chen Show Mao, MP for Aljunied GRC:

Debate on President's Address Chen Show Mao, MP for Aljunied GRC 30 May 2014

Mdm,

Earlier in this debate, Minister Gan Kim Yong announced that a national conversation will be entered into over the next few months to draw up a national action plan for successful ageing. Issues in lifelong learning, employment, volunteerism, urban infrastructure, health care, retirement adequacy and research into ageing will all be discussed. I wish the Minister success in this important undertaking. In this connection, The Minister also called for a change of mind set "from worrying about the challenges that come from ageing to celebrating longevity". This is welcome.

For my part, I would like to say again a couple of things that I said before in this House, which I believe will be useful for us to keep in mind as we embark on drawing up our national action plan for successful ageing.

First, In addition to the challenges it presents, the ageing of our population also gives us opportunities as a nation to invest in the human capital of our senior citizens, for great social returns.

Investing in elderly Singaporeans will reward our society with the economic, social and cultural contributions they are able to make with our assistance. It will also enable us to be inclusive, which is the basis for community and social cohesion.

Economic benefits can be realised from investments made to redesign jobs, workplaces, work processes and even our work culture to allow us to more fully draw on the experience and know- how that older workers are able to offer, in spite of physical bodies starting to slow down, and to allow older workers to remain as productive as or even more productive than their younger counterparts.

The elderly are also a repository of social and cultural capital. With some investment that helps keep them close to their homes, we can leverage our elders' longstanding ties in mature neighbourhoods to teach our children traditional wisdoms and values, and share stories and lessons about our communities. Our elderly can also be employed in schools to teach subjects in social studies and national education, or be encouraged to volunteer to do so.

Let us continue to invest in Singaporeans even as they age and become elderly. But what forms will such investments take? It is a good thing that seniors themselves will participate in the national conversation about a "Nation for all ages". It is a good thing that they will express preferences for different active aging activities and lifelong learning courses or programs. But whatever these preferences, perhaps we could look into providing a pillar that will help support investments by our elderly in their human capital? Just like children who need to develop and working adults who need to upgrade their skills, our elderly too need support and resources to continue growing, learning and developing.

A second pillar. Informal caregivers often make it possible for our elderly to age in place - in their homes, in the community. In 2010, it was estimated that approximately 8 per cent of Singaporean adults provided regular care to family members or friends, providing on average 6.8 hours a day of care in a typical week.

It appears to me that an important pillar to enable successful ageing would be the support we provide to our informal caregivers.

It is well documented that caregivers often suffer declines in their own financial circumstances, and mental and physical health, as a result of their caregiving role.

As other members have suggested, support may take the form of leave for the informal caregivers, or the right to ask for flexible work arrangements, or CPF top-ups, not because we want to monetise the act of caring for their loved ones, but to help ease some of the financial strains that may arise from their taking on such informal caregiving arrangements.

Many members believe that providing more support to our informal caregivers is the right thing to do.

And Mdm, As was said on the opening day of this debate, it is not so much what is said, but what is done, that will be the measure of our progress.

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