(Delivered in Parliament on 12 February 2019)
Every two years, I make a speech in this house about supporting our caregivers, like many other members do. Three speeches ago, I said that “ it is not so much what is/ said, but what is/ done, that will be the measure of our progress.” Together with my colleagues in this house, I look forward to the Government’s continuing efforts to lend support to our caregivers.
There are different types of caregivers: some are paid for their caregiving, others aren’t: we call them informal caregivers. They take care of family members or relatives who are young, who are disabled or who are elderly. Today I talk about informal caregivers who take care of the elderly.
In many ways, informal (or unpaid) caregivers enable other Singaporeans to carry out the economic activities that are counted in our GDP, while their own caregiving is not. As of now, the burden of informal caregiving falls disproportionately on women. Our dependence on this group of Singaporeans is real, substantial and very often unacknowledged.
It is well-documented that caregivers often suffer declines in their own financial circumstances, and mental and physical health. If they also work full-time or part-time at a paying job, their performance suffers too. We understand that the government is studying the feasibility of eldercare leave to help working informal caregivers also take care of seniors at home, as childcare leave helps working mothers. This would be welcome.
But, Sir, almost half of our informal caregivers to seniors do not work at other jobs, often precisely because of the unpaid caregiving responsibilities that they have taken on, to their financial detriment and reduced retirement adequacy. *We understand that the government is reviewing enhancing caregiver support in areas such as respite services, and working with community partners to offer more socio-emotional support to caregivers. Would the government also consider socio-economic support such as CPF top-ups for full-time informal caregivers in low-income households — to reduce the pressure of being unemployed or under-employed and unprepared or under-prepared for retirement as a result of taking on the responsibilities of caring for their loved seniors.
“大道之行也，天下为公。“ 在大同社会里，”使老有所终，壮有所用，幼有所长，鳏寡孤独废疾者皆有所养。“ 在我们社会里，照顾老、幼、废疾者的责任，往往是由家中的女性成员来承担。她们本身常是老龄妇女，在家中照顾年纪更大的亲属。受传统性别文化影响，老伴、单身未婚的成年女儿常被认为是理所当然的看护者人选，但本身的需求却容易被忽视。