Let’s ask… does Singapore have zero welfare?

“…Singapore is totally a non-welfare state. A Singaporean may consistently pay personal tax for the last 30 years, but once he or she is unemployed the next day, he or she will not get a cent from the govt as temporary unemployment benefit…
” – comment on ChannelNewsAsia.

It is not entirely true that Singapore has zero welfare.

Firstly, a few quick notes:

a.)    We are a fair, but not a welfare state. This country does not reward any individual who is able, but not willing to work.

b.)    We do provide assistance to those in genuine need. And there are many ways to define this “genuine” need – that’s why we have the Community Development Council (or CDC, our national “welfare office”)

To start with, this is a country that is built on strong economic fundamentals. This does not simply mean money. This also means more opportunities. If you lose a job, or want to switch, the opportunities are there. If you cannot commit time to regular work, for whatever reason, there are opportunities for you to do so. You can pursue whatever interests you have and be financially rewarded for it. All these are possible only with a strong, vibrant economy.

Yes, we do not have European style welfare. If you’re out of work, there is no such thing as “temporary relief”. There are no state pensions. Education and medical fees, though subsidized, still need to be paid for. But apart from that, the Government invests money into everything else to keep the country running smoothly.

We practice what is known as “self-taxation”.
The Government doesn’t tax you a lot on income and GST, but you ought to plan to set aside money and buy insurance for your own needs. It works out just about the same.

In Europe, there is free school, free healthcare, free transport. My cousin (who is European) even got “growing up” money until she became a teenager and my uncle has been living on welfare handouts for many years. Nothing wrong with this system, you just need to get used to get taxed astronomical amounts (we’re talking at least 40% of your income).

We will not judge and say this is a “poor system”. This we will leave up to you to decide which system you prefer. 

Singapore “Welfare”

It was once published in this magazine the sort of welfare programs that Singapore has in place. We shall repeat it again here:

  • ComCare (Financial assistance)
  • Public Assistance Scheme (Cash grants, medical, education and financial assistance)
  • Short-Term Financial Assistance Scheme (via NTUC Fairprice Food Vouchers)
  • HOPE (Homeownership Plus, incentives to low-income families)
  • Hardship Assistance Fund
  • Work Support Program
  • Lease Buyback Scheme (for low income elderly in 3-room or smaller flast to cash out part of money locked up in HDB for their old age)
  • MCYS Transport Subsidy for Users of Day Care Centres for Seniors
  • Caregivers Training Grant
  • Eldercare Trust
  • Interim Disability Program for the Elderly
  • Home Care Assist Program
  • Handicap Cab Scheme (for taxis)

Actually, there are 81 pages worth of welfare programs that cater to every level of society, see this document from the National Council of Social Services.

If you, or if you know someone who requires assistance – I would suggest that you bring this matter up to your local Member of Parliament. Your MP will then provide you recommendation for assistance.

Once again, it is not true that this country doesn’t have a heart and will leave you to fend for yourself. Rather, help yourself first and you will find many resources open to you.







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