Meeting the Challenges: The Future of the Family in Singapore

At Singapore Polytechnic’s Experience 2016, a Special Innovation Project by Singapore Polytechnic, FFL Council Member, Anita Fam shares as the Keynote Speaker about the social and demographic trends that are changing the face of the family in Singapore and the need to take action in order to meet and overcome these challenges.

By Anita Fam

Singaporean families are changing and they are changing much faster than we might have imagined. The combined drivers of shrinking family sizes, an aging population and other social and demographic factors means that we need to prepare ourselves for a shift in how we think about supporting the family unit both in terms of resources as well as focus.

How Are Our Families Changing?

Families Are Getting Smaller

There are now fewer people in an average Singapore household. Between 2013 and 2014, the average household size fell from 3.47 to 3.43 and this trend is likely to continue in the future. Not only are our families getting smaller, but what comprises of a typical family in Singapore is also changing.

In the past, a typical household unit would have seen 2 parents and several children. In 2014, for the first time, the percentage of families with this profile fell below 50%. This means that the traditional nuclear family is now in the minority. Instead, the majority of households in Singapore are now made up of married couples without children, married couples living apart from their children and one-person households. The number of married couples without children or living apart from their children has increased from 3% to 14% between 2000 and 2014. The number of single person household has in the same period of time crossed over the 10% mark and is now at 11.2%. In addition to these numbers, the number of divorces is slowly increasing. Again, this has consequences for single person households and single parent households. Taken together, all these numbers are large and significant.

Clearly, we now live in times where the definition of what comprises of a household unit and what that means about how families live together, share their lives, and depend on each other is changing.

Families are Getting Older

You’ve probably heard this said many times over the past few years, but Singapore’s population is ageing. With one of the world’s highest levels of life expectancy, Singaporeans born in 2000 can now look forward to living until 82 years of age. If you had been born in 1970, your life expectancy would have been just 66 years of age.

What this means to the family unit however is, that families are getting older. Not only are our households getting smaller because we have fewer children, but the average age of our families is being pushed up as we live longer. In the past, family portraits would have featured a few elderly members of the family surrounded by many young adults and children. Family portraits of the future will probably start to show the opposite – a few children surrounded by many senior and elderly family members.

Families Will See Their Resources Stretched

Older families also mean that each family will have fewer resources. With fewer young people in the family, there will in future be fewer working adults in each family to support ever increasing numbers of retired and elderly family members.

A look at some statistics will make this point easier to understand. In 1970, there were 13.5 working citizens supporting every elderly citizen. That means that the support of each elderly citizen could be shared across almost 14 working adults. Today, that ratio has fallen to 4.8 working citizens to each elderly citizen. By 2030, we can expect the ratio to have fallen even lower so that there will only be 2 working adults to support each elderly citizen.

If you think about it, that means that the resources that each working adult needs to set aside to support our elderly population will need to be 7 times more than what they would have needed in 1970; and we are not even factoring in the impact of rising healthcare, housing and other costs which have occurred in our society.

What Can We Do?

On the surface, it seems that these changes are overwhelming. However, there are many things which we can as a society start to do in order to meet and overcome these challenges.

Acknowledge the Importance of the Extended Family

Whilst the nuclear family unit might be getting smaller, the extended family unit is still an important part of our society. Singapore is lucky because we are a nation which recognises the role and importance of the extended family. So, families don’t need to comprise of just parents and children. They are made up of maternal and paternal grandparents, in-laws, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces.

So the very first step to addressing our future challenges is to recognise and acknowledge the importance of our extended families. Think about how we can create greater bonds within the extended family, be prepared to help beyond your immediate family units. By working across the extended family unit today, you prepare future generations to accept and adopt this model of support, care and love.

Prepare for Marriage

Getting married, starting a family, these are all important life changing events. In families of the future, the responsibility that each parent and spouse will need to take on will increase. Not only in terms of caring for your own children, but becoming jointly responsible for the care of your parents and your in-laws.

The better prepared you can be for marriage, the higher your chances of being able to build and grow a strong and lasting family unit yourself. So, take the time to go through a marriage preparation course before you get married. The stronger your relationship and the better prepared you are, the happier your marriage will be.

Make Time

It is true, the demands of work and the high cost of living and the expectations which most young couples have today mean that many of us spend incredible amounts of time and energy building our careers.

But this shouldn’t come at the cost of family time. Singaporeans recognise this too. FFL’s family time polled revealed that only 55% of us are satisfied with the amount of quality time we spend with our families.

Families need to become more intentional about setting aside “family time” to bond with each other. We need to make this as much a priority as possible.

Use Technology

Whilst technology has often been cited as a barrier to family time and communication, like most tools, it can be used to create more platforms for us to connect with our families too. Using WhatsApp family groups and other types of social media within a family group can enable us to stay in touch with each other despite our hectic lifestyles.

source from Families For Life

A Quick Summary – Budget 2016

Click picture to enlarge

GST Voucher — Cash Payments for 2016

Earlier this week, Singapore’s finance minister Mr Heng Swee Keat carried the traditional black briefcase and stepped up to the parliament podium today to make his first ever budget speech. His budget that puts forward government financial policy between 1st April 2016 – March 31st 2017 was strongly focused on the economy. Here’s a quick summary of what he put forth:

FOR HOUSEHOLDS IN GENERAL

  • GST VOUCHERS OF $250/$500 will be issued for all Singaporeans aged 21 and above . If you Annual Value of Home falls below $13,000 congratulations you’ll be getting $500 this year, otherwise you’ll be getting $250.
  • HDB SERVICE AND CONSERVANCY CHARGES REBATES OF BETWEEN 1 – 3 MONTHS will be made available to all HDB households.
  • PERSONAL INCOME TAX RELIEVED WILL BE CAPPED at $80,000 per year starting from YA2018.

 

FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN

  • A NEW CDA ACCOUNT CALLED THE FIRST STEP ACCOUNT was announced, parents of children born from 24th March onwards will receive $3,000 in their CDA. Dollar for dollar matching from the government up to co-savings cap will remain.
  • CLAIMABLE MEDISAVE FOR PRE-DELIVERY MEDICAL EXPENSES WILL DOUBLE
  • A NEW PILOT INITIATIVE CALLED KIDSTART will draw government and community resources to help needy children under the ages of 6 to receive support
  • A FRESH START HOUSING SCHEME WILL PROVIDE RENTAL HOUSING ASSISTANCE for families with children, to qualify, parents must stay employed and ensure that their young kids keep going to school.
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE EDUCATION will be expanded for all students through a new master plan, with a new outward bound campus to be built on Coney island, set to launch by 2020.

 

ON EMPLOYMENT AND EMPLOYABILITY

  • SKILLSFUTURE WHICH IS A PART OF THE GOVERNMENTS LONG TERM GAME PLAN will now include SkillsFuture Study Awards to develop specialist skills in 12 sectors for early to mid-career Singaporeans regardless of qualifications
  • WAGE SUPPORT SCHEMES WILL BE IMPLEMENTED to help those who face greater difficulty in finding jobs
    • A TECH SKILLS ACCELERATOR WILL BE SET UP TO Identify specific skills in demand in the ICT sector and assist Singaporeans to develop skill standards and certification in this field. They will also work with anchor employers who have agreed to hire based on skills not certification

FOR LOW INCOME FAMILIES

ENHANCEMENTS WILL BE INTRODUCTED TO THE WORKFARE INCOME SUPPLEMENT (WIS) SCHEME WIS will be paid every month instead of quarterly at present. The qualifying income ceiling will also be raised to $2,000/mth

 

FOR SENIORS

  • THE SILVER SUPPORT SCHEME WILL BE LAUNCHED IN JULY 2016. It will benefit the bottom 20% of seniors, who will receive payouts of $300-$750/quarter. The first payout will be a double payout including a back-payment for the 2nd quarter of 2016. There will be no need to apply for the scheme, and 140,000 seniors are expected to benefit.
  • A PILOT SCHEME WILL BE LAUNCHED TO BUILD COMMUNITY NETWORKS FOR SENIORS. This will bring together schools, VWOs, seniors with a team of full time officers to provide co-ordinated health and social support.

OTHERS

    • A NEW AREA CALLED THE JURONG INNOVATION DISTRICT WILL BE LAUNCHED that will create an innovative urban environment to house different activities within a single next gen industrial district. The area will house R&D, protoyping labs, advanced manufacturing and robotics. It will also function as a living lab with testing and development of future technology such as self-driving cars.  The first phase is expected to be completed by 2020
    • PIC CASH PAYOUTS WILL FALL FROM 60% TO 40% on expenditures on or after 1st August 2016, PIC will expire after YA 2018, indicating that there will be no extension for the scheme. Tax deductions under the scheme will remain the same

How Much GST Credits You’ll Be Getting?

 

The bigger question on most Singaporeans’ minds is how much will they be getting this year, $250/ $500? Well first off, you need to have had an assessable income of $26,000 or less in YA 2015.

If you meet that condition, the answer is pretty simple, if you live in a HDB flat , odds are you should be getting $500 – This of course, depends on where you stay. If you live in a condominium, apartment or landed property, you’ll probably be getting $250 this year.

How can you find out exactly how much you’ll be getting from GST Credits this year?
2016’s GST Credits are based on the Annual Value of your home. If you’re a homeowner, all you need to do to check that value to is login to  mytax.iras.gov.sg.

The value of your home will be available there at no cost. If you are not the homeowner and want to avoid an awkward conversation with your parents about how much their house is worth, you can simple go to E-Val and find out. Though you’ll have to pay $2.50 to do so.

To find out more about the annual value of your home visit IRAS here.

 

What are your thoughts on the Budget 2016? Comment them below!

Singapore Budget 2015

Keeping gaming addiction at bay

Gaming Addiction

The telltale signs are disturbing—teens hide in rooms or internet cafes, neglecting friends and even food, while grades and social skills suffer.

The culprit? It’s not alcohol or drugs, but computer games. And addiction to these games is much more common than many people think—a recent study by Singapore’s Ministry of Education and the Media Development Authority found that nearly 9% of young people in Singapore are “pathological gamers” who play around 37.5 hours each week.

While playing an occasional game is harmless, in these extreme cases it can interfere with day-to-day routines such as working or eating. Addicts’ social skills are likely to be weaker and they can also suffer from hand and wrist pain, insufficient sleep and problems at school.

Citing a recent example, Mr Nicholas Khoo, Chairman of Singapore Cybersports & Online Gaming Association (SCOGA), explains how he worked with a 12-year-old girl who had been away from school for more than 6 months and spent most of her time playing computer games at the

Internet café, frequently running away from home. Besides talking to her about taking care of her parents after they have retired, they spent time together playing her favourite game to help wean off her gaming addiction.

“She opened up to us readily and we managed to observe deeper issues such as problems with her brother and relationship issues with her friends in school, and highlighted them to her counsellors. They worked on those issues and informed us that she volunteered to go back to school a couple of weeks after,” Mr Khoo said.

He recommends that parents take the opportunity to engage their children instead of banning internet usage. For example, parents can try to understand the games that their children play, or set limits and monitor Internet usage by placing the computer in the living room.

“Besides reminding them of their real world priorities and helping them work out a time management plan, try to find out if there are deeper issues like peer-related problems, which are causing them to escape into their online world. When necessary, get professional help,” says Mr Khoo.

Counselling centres such as Touch and Fei Yue Community Services have treatment programmes to help youths who are hooked on computer games. With guidance from counsellors, youths can work together with their family to address gaming addiction and other emotional issues.

 

source:  http://www.mda.gov.sg/NewsAndEvents/Newsletters/2011/7/Pages/02.aspx