Are Singaporeans happy with life as a whole now – and do they feel confident about the next 10 years?
According to a survey commissioned by MediaCorp’s Current Affairs Unit, 66 per cent of residents said they are happy while 14 per cent said they are not. Asked whether life is close to ideal, five in 10 said yes.
Many expressed concerns over issues ranging from transport to housing and security. But even more people said they expected to be more worried about these issues 10 years down the road, reflecting a sense of uncertainty about the future.
Overall, six in 10 residents think economic conditions here will allow them to reach their personal goals.
CONCERNS OVER NEXT 10 YEARS
With the buzz of a General Election in the air, what weighs heaviest on the minds of Singaporeans?
The affordability of healthcare, availability of affordable housing, and the loss of potential jobs to foreigners were the top three concerns of respondents. All three were hot-button issues in the last General Election in 2011.
Concerns about elderly needs and the availability of integrated healthcare came in fourth and fifth, respectively.
The survey involved 2,000 citizens and permanent residents from the ages of 18 to 65, across all races and income groups. Half were surveyed via email while the rest were interviewed face to face.
Despite more state funds being pumped into healthcare and subsidies such as the Pioneer Generation Scheme, as well as Medishield Life starting on Nov 1, healthcare affordability topped the list of respondents’ concerns, with 83 per cent saying they were worried about increasing healthcare costs.
Low-to-middle income workers (earning S$3,000 to S$5,000) were more worried about rising healthcare costs than low-income earners, who are on the receiving end of heavier subsidies and aid.
One respondent said: “Healthcare costs have increased exponentially over the years, notwithstanding the increase in subsidies.”
Associate Professor Paulin Straughan of the National University of Singapore’s sociology department said these are real concerns as life expectancy increases. “This quote sums it all. When you ask an individual to project their anxieties to the next 10 years, the only thing they can think of is the trend,” she said.
“This is one area we’ve been worried about because of the rise in costs. We are living much longer now, and we anticipate that we will be spending a significant portion of our life living with disabilities.
“And there’s nothing more worrisome than being ill when you don’t have an income any more.”
Despite HDB resale and private housing prices falling since early 2014, 78 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about the affordability of housing, with 47 per cent “extremely concerned”. The concern was greater among those aged 18 to 24.
Mr James Chia, a financial educator from Innervative Learning, said: “Ultimately you expect the trend to go up, especially with population increasing. It’s demand and supply, so the concern will always be there.”
Respondents, especially the younger generation, expressed worries about the difficulties of buying their own home.
Miss Rebekah Lin, co-founder of 50 For 50, a social enterprise, said: “The prices of property have risen much faster than an increase in salary. It is increasingly harder for young couples and singles to afford.”
Mr Chia said: “Housing is the biggest ticket item you’re going to buy in your life, so there will always be a concern.”
LOSS OF POTENTIAL JOBS TO FOREIGNERS
Since the 2011 General Election, the Government has scaled back foreign worker numbers and employment passes. It has also introduced initiatives such as the Jobs Bank, closer scrutiny of companies’ hiring practices, and even a wage subsidy if companies hire unemployed Singaporean professionals, managers and executives aged 40 and above for mid-level jobs.
But respondents said they are still worried that they will lose out on potential jobs to foreigners over the next five to 10 years
Said Assoc Prof Straughan: “I’m not denying the fact that there are tension spots, but certainly we shouldn’t accept these as broad strokes to describe the implications of having immigration.
“Because truth of the matter is we don’t have enough of ourselves with a sustained low-fertility rate, (and) we’re not able to maintain the kind of buzz in our labour market.”
Mr Chia noted: “I think the concern runs deeper than the issue of foreigners.”
He said foreigners may be an easy target in terms of loss of jobs, but innovation, too, has the potential to displace jobs as Singapore gears towards being a smart nation.
Agreeing, Assoc Prof Straughan said that this boils down to being “future ready”.
She said: “You need to be able to future-proof your skill set so that you will always remain relevant no matter who is with you in the competitive arena.”
“The real issue (concerning foreigners) is really about a disparity that people perceive,” said Dr Nazry Bahrawi, humanities lecturer at Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
“I guess the PMETs are probably the ones that feel these most. And some find a bogeyman that is easy to seek,” Dr Nazry added.
“What we should do then is to look at how we can develop the groups that are caught up in this disparity rather than shape the discourse towards blaming a certain group that may not be the real concern here.”
View the full panel discussion at Talking Point on Toggle catch-up and view the rest of the survey stats at facebook.com/TalkingPoint
news source & image credits: channelnewsasia.com