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Breaking The Poverty Cycle In Singapore

In our previous article on the hard truths of poverty in Singapore, we highlighted several statistics that perhaps were shocking because albeit Singapore being an affluent and advanced city, there still remains a significant segment of society that gets left behind and sadly, forgotten.

The poverty situation in Singapore is real; it isn’t something that we can ignore just because we do not have a poverty line. The challenges that these people may face are daunting, as do the challenges faced by the government and independent welfare bodies to resolve them.

Challenge #1: Families In Chronic Debt
This is perhaps the toughest problem to tackle yet the most urgent. Recent indicators have suggested that the bottom 20 percentile of households in our nation are spending more than what they earn. This is one of the underlying reasons why it is difficult to break out from the poverty cycle. Why it is called a ‘cycle’ in the first place.

If people are spending more than what they earn every month, this would mean that they have no savings and in fact, would also be in debt. How then, to pay off the debt if this is a recurring issue? Would a monthly financial aid really solve the problem?

Challenge #2: Scratching The Surface Or Uprooting The Entire Issue?
We cannot forget that there are government bodies and community welfare services available to render aid. However, we also need to remember that from their standpoint, the goal is not to simply give out money to help these people in hope that the cycle would somehow be broken.

Simply put, the greatest risk and worry that social services have is the fallacy of the idea of a ‘welfare state’. The pullback of offering financial aid without criteria is the probability that one may grow reliant on the help, instead of trying to solve the problem once and for all.

Challenge #3: The Multi-Pronged War On Poverty
If poverty is just a problem of having low-income, getting in debt or the inability to support yourself financially, the answer might have been easier. But this is a multi-faceted problem and thus, there is ‘no one size fits all’ type of solution. Giving one-time or even recurring handouts will not solve the problem.

Poverty isn’t just about one having insufficient funds for daily necessities; it is also a concept that covers the lack of education, social and emotional support. In fact, the many sides to poverty give rise to a variety of possible ways to break out of the poverty cycle.

The Different Dimensions To Poverty For Financial Aid

Sometimes the most straightforward help you can get is still in terms of cash. There are families in Singapore who are unable to look for a job in the first place due to their difficult circumstances and this necessitates financial assistance in the form of subsidies, food vouchers and so on.

For social and emotional support
The soul needs care as well, especially in the case of ‘relative poverty’, where people have enough money to survive, but not enough for them to be “included” in the progress of Singapore. It is important to know that there are people out there who can help you get back to your feet, and who will give you the mental support and motivation that you need to fight this battle.

For education
One of the ways to leave this cycle would be to ensure that you have the skill sets and paper qualifications to secure a job that can sustain your daily expenses.

This needs to be tagged along with proper budgeting skills. Remember, income is only one side of the equation. There are many people are mired in debt despite earning a good salary.

For the unemployed
Looking for a job but you don’t know where to even begin? The last you would want is to land a job with a mismatch of skills that you have or worse, one that does not give you security – be it financially or mentally.

Help Is Here

There are schemes by the government to provide help in tackling poverty. The Ministry of Social and Family Development do have multiple lines of assistance to tackle the different facets of poverty. In addition, there are also voluntary welfare organizations (VWOs) out there that are here to lend a hand or a listening ear to whoever is needy.

Beneath the cityscape in Singapore lies a society that unfortunately is segregated into different classes whether we like to admit it or not. However, it is important to remember that one can move among these classes, that there are no physical or cultural boundaries that exist between these invisible lines, only challenges and problems – solveable challenges and problems.

The poverty scene will continue to exist. However, one can hope that given the right strategies, efforts and time, this number will dwindle rather than grow, and that less people will be left behind.


Top Image From Benjamin Lim. 

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