SUPPORTING SINGAPOREANS
AND ENSURING NO ONE
IS LEFT BEHIND

A broad, responsive yet prudent social security system has maintained Singapore’s culture of self-reliance, while making sure the vulnerable in society have the support they need to better their lives.

A broad, responsive yet prudent social security system has maintained Singapore’s culture of self-reliance, while making sure the vulnerable in society have the support they need to better their lives.


Today, the situation has changed. If we rely too heavily on the individual, their efforts alone will not be enough… And there are some things which individuals cannot do on their own and there are other things which we can do much better together. So we must shift the balance.

– Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister,
National Day Rally Speech, 18 August 2013



As an “unexpected nation”1 which came abruptly into being with its separation from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore struggled in the early years to find jobs and alleviate poverty for our people. Many were unemployed; the city-state had lost its main hinterland. To grow the economy and ensure that the nation could make a living, the newly formed government sought to attract foreign investors to set up factories and other businesses. Business costs, including taxes, had to be kept low so that Singapore would be attractive to the foreign investments so badly needed to get the economy going. Public funds – including those allocated for social support – would have to be spent prudently. Broad welfare provisions subsidising consumption, as provided by some other countries, were out of the question.

With no other natural resources, the people of Singapore had to learn to fend for themselves, and work hard to support themselves and their families. There were no shortcuts. In the years following Independence, we had to find a sustainable and balanced way to make sure all Singaporeans were looked after. We had to help our people improve their lives steadily, support those truly in need and enable them to better their lot in life in the long term, yet at the same time maintain a strong culture of hard work and self-reliance. Active government intervention supports self-reliance and incentivises Singaporeans to invest in themselves. These principles have guided the evolution of social security in Singapore over the past half century.


With no other natural resources, the people of Singapore had to learn to fend for themselves, and work hard to support themselves and their families. There were no shortcuts. In the years following Independence, we had to find a sustainable and balanced way to make sure all Singaporeans were looked after. We had to help our people improve their lives steadily, support those truly in need and enable them to better their lot in life in the long term, yet at the same time maintain a strong culture of hard work and self-reliance. Active government intervention supports self-reliance and incentivises Singaporeans to invest in themselves. These principles have guided the evolution of social security in Singapore over the past half century.

CPF, HOUSING, HEALTHCARE: PILLARS OF SOCIAL SECURITY

A key anchor of Singapore’s unique social security system is the Central Provident Fund (CPF). First introduced as a compulsory retirement savings programme in 1955 by the British, arguably to reduce the dependence of British colonies on the welfare largesse of the United Kingdom, CPF is a defined-contribution retirement savings scheme: a portion of residents’ monthly wages, along with a monthly sum contributed by their employers, are saved in individual fund accounts and grow with risk-free interest throughout their working lives. These contributions, mandated by law, are intended to be used primarily for retirement. Through CPF, every Singaporean saves for his own retirement with help from his employer, and with help from the Government as well through risk-free interest rates and tops-ups targeted primarily at the lower income.

CPF accounts are also a key vehicle for delivering other important aspects of social security, such as housing and healthcare. Some of the funds that Singaporeans have accumulated in their individual CPF accounts can be channelled to pay for their property mortgages, healthcare insurance premiums and to co-pay for subsidised healthcare expenses. Such expenditures are regarded as investments in Singaporeans’ future well-being and Singapore’s economic and social progress; keeping citizens healthy is essential for a good quality of life as well as a productive workforce. Home ownership gives individuals a permanent roof over their heads as well as a stake in the country – a real asset that appreciates as Singapore does well.

In the 1960s, when public apartments were being built to house an overcrowded population, it was regarded as important for residents to be able to own their own homes, rather than rent them, as is the case with many public housing projects elsewhere. Home ownership helps mitigate the uncertainty in retirement faced by the citizens of other countries that comes from paying for rent. To ease the financial burden of home ownership, the CPF Public Housing Scheme was introduced in 1968, allowing Singapore residents to fund their property purchase down payments and mortgage payments through their CPF savings.

As Singapore continued to prosper in the 1980s and early 1990s, Medisave (introduced in 1984) and MediShield (introduced in 1990) were included in the CPF system to help Singapore residents save up for healthcare expenses that might be incurred by themselves and their families in the future.

The CPF scheme, together with affordable healthcare and home ownership, constitute an interdependent, mutually reinforcing social security system. Because the system is underpinned by individual responsibility and effort, with the family unit as the first line of support, it is more financially sustainable in the long term. Furthermore, as the CPF scheme is self-funded, there are no intergenerational transfers with workers having to fund the retirement needs of a growing pool of pensioners. Therefore, the CPF scheme is well-placed to adapt to the challenges arising from a rapidly ageing population. Capitalising on the economy’s rapid economic growth since the 1970s, this system has kept Singapore’s welfare expenditures sustainable, and its economy competitive.

By the 1990s, the CPF approach had become part of our way of life. Reflecting on the CPF as part of a qualitative study in 1995, one Singaporean’s perspective was: “You do not have to depend on children to support you. This independence makes you feel good. With CPF, the old folks can depend on themselves.” Another shared: “I feel more secure.” 2

SOCIAL ASSISTANCE

Not everyone has the means for basic subsistence, or to accumulate sufficient resources to meet their housing, healthcare or children’s education needs. From the colonial administration, Singapore had inherited a Public Assistance Scheme (set up in 1946), to provide temporary financial assistance to needy and destitute Singaporeans. After Independence, welfare expenditure was directed primarily at poverty alleviation. 3 The Public Assistance Scheme later provided long-term support for Singaporeans with little or no means of income or family support, or who were unable to seek employment due to ill health, old age or disability. Today, social assistance in Singapore aims to address the specific needs of the bottom 20% of households, and is positioned to complement, rather than replace, individual responsibility and family support.

The family plays a key role in supporting individuals in their times of need. Most social assistance programmes use household income rather than individual income to assess needs and to determine the amount of social assistance and subsidies given to individuals. Singaporeans are also encouraged to contribute to family members’ CPF accounts through tax incentives. They can also draw on their individual Medisave accounts to pay for family members’ hospitalisation expenses or outpatient expenses for chronic illnesses.

As a matter of general principle and prudence, most assistance programmes in Singapore are targeted and temporary. Schemes have also been designed so as not to erode work ethic, personal drive and responsibility, nor displace family and community support. Programmes eschew permanent monetary handouts, other than to individuals who are unable to seek employment and who lack family support.

For those eligible for short-to-medium-term help (due to temporary unemployment, illnesses, difficult family circumstances or other pressing challenges), assistance most often takes the form of programmes that help households get back on their feet in future. For instance, assistance may be given towards children’s education, subsidies for skills upgrading, topping up the incomes of poorer households – along with other forms of support such as social intervention and employment assistance. Individuals receiving help have to share the responsibility of addressing challenges that they and their families face. They are required to carry out agreed action plans that include seeking employment, attending skills training workshops or managing their families’ finances to mitigate difficulties that they and their families face.

There has generally been a shift in focus towards more upstream interventions for low-income families. This translates into an emphasis on helping the children, so that the next generation can break out of the poverty cycle, through education and employment. There are also efforts to make important services such as childcare, kindergarten and student care more readily available and accessible, to help Singaporean families start out with similar opportunities in life. The aim is to work with these families to overcome their difficult immediate circumstances, and develop greater stability and resilience so that they can gradually improve their lives on their own in the long term. In this way, social assistance becomes not a fiscal burden but an investment in the future of these families so that they too can have a good start in life, with a sense of purpose and hope.

STAYING ABREAST OF CHANGES 4 AND SUPPORTING THE INCREASINGLY COMPLEX NEEDS OF SINGAPOREANS

Singapore’s approach to social security and social support helped make possible remarkable economic growth. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.6% in 1965 and 13.9% in 1970. By the end of 1971, just six years after Independence, Singapore had achieved full employment, meaning there were enough jobs available for everyone to support themselves and their families through work. Despite several recessions in the decades to follow, Singapore’s GDP per capita continued to grow; it is now one of the world’s highest, with GDP per capita of $69,050 (US$55,183) 5 in 2013.

The advent of globalisation presents new challenges. As large businesses shift their operations to locations around the world with lower manpower and production costs, low-wage workers and employees in affected industries, such as manufacturing and services, have found it difficult to improve their wages, or even to retain their jobs.

Being a small and open economy, Singapore is susceptible to globalisation trends. 6 While CPF depends on individuals working regularly and making regular contributions to CPF to accumulate retirement savings for most of their working lives, this can be disrupted in a changing global economy with shorter and more volatile employment cycles. Technological advancements and rising educational standards among younger Singaporeans have also resulted in older, less qualified workers being displaced in Singapore’s knowledge-based economy. 7 Rapid structural changes to the economy mean that growth alone can no longer be relied on to lift all boats at the same time.

Singapore’s population is also rapidly ageing, and its fertility falling. This implies that family resources and assistance, a primary means of social support, is shrinking over time. As people live longer, CPF accounts may also not be enough to fund retirement needs and long-term medical expenses, in particular for low-wage workers who have accumulated lower CPF balances.

In response to these social and economic shifts, Singapore has been fine-tuning and adapting our social support institutions. Family support continues to be fundamental, but broader and more comprehensive measures have been introduced to help Singaporeans manage these growing pressures together, ensuring that no one is left behind as we continue to progress economically and socially. The expansion of social support programmes also reflects the growing maturity of Singaporeans, who have become more receptive to the notions of social justice and collective responsibility.

EXPANDING SUPPORT FOR THE VULNERABLE,
THE ELDERLY AND THEIR FAMILIES

EXPANDING SUPPORT FOR THE VULNERABLE, THE ELDERLY AND THEIR FAMILIES

A milestone in Singapore’s efforts to widen the coverage of its social security and social support programmes was the introduction of the Community Care Endowment Fund (ComCare) in 2005 and Workfare schemes in 2007 to meet the specific needs of low-wage workers and vulnerable families who were most affected by the volatility of the global economy and restructuring of Singapore’s domestic economy.

ComCare provides funding for social assistance programmes that support low-income individuals and families in their daily needs. These individuals also receive assistance in employment, healthcare and childcare. The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme – a key component of Workfare – “systematically enhances the incomes of the bottom 20% to 30% of lower-wage Singaporeans during their working years”, 8 to help ease the financial burden of those who are gainfully employed albeit with a low wage. It also helps to improve the retirement adequacy of the individual through CPF top-ups. Through these schemes, the Government provides institutionalised assistance to low-wage workers and vulnerable families – a significant shift in the Government’s approach to social support. It reflects the Government’s recognition that in the current economic context, individuals and families need a lift from the Government even as they help themselves.

We are shifting the balance between individual and collective responsibility: the community and Government must play a greater role to support individuals, especially lower income families and the elderly… We will do more to level up low-income Singaporeans; to share the risks through a stronger social safety net, so that no one has to face life’s uncertainties on his own; and keep our society mobile, so that everyone can move up through their efforts regardless of their social backgrounds.
– Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam,
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, at the Academy of Medicine, 23 August 2013

Singaporeans are living longer and their retirement and healthcare needs are expected to grow with age. To address this, a series of policy changes were introduced between 2012 and 2015, including significant new universal schemes such as MediShield Life and the Pioneer Generation Package. These schemes, together with the CPF Lifelong Income for the Elderly (CPF LIFE, introduced in 2009), represent a shift where some of the risks previously borne by the individual have now been socialised and made more affordable. Further measures are set to follow.

Enhancements to Retirement Savings

Singapore’s elderly tend to have smaller CPF balances because wages were lower in the early years of Singapore’s development. A larger proportion of their CPF savings has also been channelled to the purchase of their public housing homes. To augment their CPF savings, the Government has been increasing CPF contribution rates for older workers since 2012. From 2016, older workers aged 50 to 55 will have the same contribution rates as their younger counterparts. In a complementary effort to enhance retirement savings, the Government will implement a 1% increase in interest rates on the first $60,000 of CPF balances for all CPF members. CPF members aged 55 and above receive an additional Extra Interest of 1% on the first $30,000 of their CPF balances. These Extra Interest rates will take effect on 1 January 2016. For members with lower CPF balances, 9 the additional 1% Extra Interest adds up to a 20% increase in their monthly payouts, or about $40 more each month, for the rest of their lives, which injects an element of progressivity to the CPF system.
Another important means for older Singaporeans to augment their CPF savings is continued employment, which also helps keep them active and engaged. A Special Employment Credit (SEC), 10 introduced in 2011, provides cash incentives for employers to hire older workers above the age of 50 years, who are earning up to $4,000 a month. 11 The SEC was enhanced in 2012 to provide additional support to employers hiring older workers. The SEC works in tandem with the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme to supplement the CPF savings of older, lower-wage Singaporeans.

Support for the Elderly in Low-income Households

Another “major new feature” 12 in Singapore’s social support for the elderly poor – the Silver Support Scheme – will take effect in 2016 and will be a permanent feature of the social security landscape going forward. Silver Support will supplement the incomes of the bottom 20% to 30% of seniors aged 65 and above in their retirement years. The scheme will provide $300 to $750 every quarter to eligible seniors, with more support given to seniors living in smaller flats, for as long as they live and remain eligible. Eligibility for Silver Support will be determined by several factors including lifetime wages, the level of household support and housing type. Together with Workfare, Silver Support will form the fourth pillar of social security to “help mitigate life’s disparities”. 13 Silver Support reflects the Government’s recognition that amidst Singapore’s current economic and social realities, vulnerable individuals need more support.

Supporting Middle-income Families

Social assistance in Singapore has traditionally not focused on middle-income households, since they fall outside the lowest 20% of income earners that have been the target of social support. However, these groups are now also at risk from the pressures of global economic competition. Singapore’s new measures seek to mitigate their risks from wage depression and unemployment, while they work to provide for their elderly parents and children.

To ease the financial burden of caregiving, educational subsidies for pre-school and tertiary education, as well as subsidies for healthcare and social care services (for example, day care for the elderly or early intervention for children with special needs) have been progressively extended to middle-income groups. Financial assistance for student care and childcare for children from lower- income families have also been extended to a larger group beyond the bottom 20% of households. The introduction of CPF LIFE and MediShield Life offer further relief for Singaporeans who are caring for elderly parents.

ADAPTIVE SOCIAL SECURITY INSTITUTIONS

The expansion of Singapore’s social security and social support system requires innovative adaptations to existing institutions to meet changing needs, while preserving the fundamental principles of financial sustainability, individual drive and responsibility.

CPF LIFE, which provides lifelong monthly payouts in retirement, and MediShield Life, a lifelong health insurance scheme, both take advantage of the extensive reach of CPF to spread out longevity and healthcare risks among its large pool of members, maximising payouts at each premium tier. This risk-pooling reduces individual risk burdens, while keeping public expenditure on healthcare and elder care sustainable.

It is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of Singapore’s key social security institutions, that they have been able to innovate in response to changing social and economic circumstances which have affected societies the world over. Singapore’s suite of social provisions has been extended to more households and different circumstances, while keeping to fundamental principles: maintaining individual drive and responsibility, with the family as the primary source of support. Programmes continue to be targeted at the specific needs of households at different tiers of income. Co-payment and shared responsibility continue to be the mainstay for the provision of public goods such as healthcare and other social services.

As the demographic and economic landscape changes, other social institutions have also had to evolve to address increasingly more complex needs in the broader Singaporean community.

KEEPING AN EAR TO THE GROUND AND WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE COMMUNITY

While most Singaporeans have been well supported by CPF and other schemes that allow them to fund their housing, healthcare, education and retirement needs, there are those with needs that are best addressed with help from the broader community.

At the individual level, Singapore’s tax policies encourage individuals to help those who are less fortunate by giving income tax credits for individuals’ donations to charities.At the community level, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), an independent, not-for-profit organisation formed in 2000, leads and coordinates volunteering and philanthropic activities by galvanising individuals, private and public organisations, charities and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) towards its vision of a “giving nation”. 14

Through an approach dubbed “Many Helping Hands”, Singapore’s public sector partners VWOs, charities and other community groups closest to those in need, in order to effectively deliver a range of social services and assistance programmes. These partnerships are an important aspect of Singapore’s social institutions.

Partnerships with the Community:
The National Council of Social Service and Community Chest

National Council of Social Service

The Singapore Council of Social Service (SCSS) was formed in 1958 to coordinate and promote voluntary welfare activities among its members, including VWOs, charities and philanthropic organisations. SCSS, which became a statutory body in 1968, complemented the Government’s work in providing essential services, such as housing and education, during the early years when demand for these basic services was high. SCSS became the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) in 1992, keeping pace with the expansion of the social service sector to meet changing needs. With 450 member organisations today, NCSS continues to provide leadership and support by coordinating activities, building capabilities and developing leadership for the sector. 15 It set up the Social Service Training Institute in 2003 (now known as the Social Service Institute) 16 to integrate “training, practice, resource and career services”, 17 working with the Government to develop new skills, competencies and continual training for the sector as social needs evolve.

NCSS also sets standards for social services, designs and pioneers effective and evidence-based solutions to benefit children, youth, family, people with mental health issues and disability, as well as the elderly.

Community Chest

Established in 1983, the Community Chest (ComChest) raises funds from the community for the community in need marshalling support for social services in Singapore. 18 A charity managed by SCSS and later NCSS, ComChest assists more than 80 VWOs, working in partnership with corporate groups and individuals and through national initiatives – such as the President’s Challenge and the Care and Share @ SG50 Movement – to rally donations and volunteers. 19 ComChest raises funds centrally for critical and much needed programmes including those which face challenges in garnering support. 20 This frees up VWOs and charities to focus on providing services to beneficiaries.
In addition to fund raising, ComChest encourages and coordinates volunteer activities with corporate partners so that companies, organisations and individuals can contribute time, money and expertise to social causes. 21 This promotes a spirit of philanthropy and strengthens community bonds.

NCSS and ComChest complement the Government’s range of social programmes by providing flexible and responsive support to Singapore’s social services sector. They will continue to play leading roles in convening broader support for Singapore’s social services sector as it scales up.

Many and Abler Helping Hands:
New Institutions for Social Support

As social issues grow more complex and interdependent,
Singapore’s social security arrangements must become more flexible and targeted in order to deliver programmes and interventions that meet those needs in a timely and effective manner. Over the past few years, improving service delivery has been the emphasis and preoccupation of the public sector. There has been a greater push for improving co-ordination across agencies to provide better accessibility to services and programmes that have greater flexibility to meet diverse needs. New forms of partnership and collaboration with the community help public agencies to bridge this “last mile” challenge and stay sensitive to the changing needs of Singaporeans on the ground.

Community Development Council

To reach out to more Singaporeans and better understand their needs, new forms of organisational structures have developed. The Community Development Councils (CDCs) were established in 1997 to foster cross-sectoral collaboration between the public, private and social service sectors in support of the poor and vulnerable in Singapore. 22 Such partnerships strengthen the capabilities of grassroots and community networks, bringing social services even closer to the people.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will play a stronger role in harnessing the contributions and capabilities of different partners – community groups, Voluntary Welfare Organisations and government agencies – to build an integrated social service system that serves the social needs of Singaporeans. We will strengthen linkages among different social service providers to improve ‘last mile’ delivery. This will include mobilising the community to develop local solutions, building up the network of Social Service Offices to deliver social assistance and conduct local service planning, and coordinating with Family Service Centres and other agencies to provide a range of specialist social service interventions. We will also strengthen coordination across government agencies to deliver integrated social services to citizens.
– Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Social and Family Development, Addendum to the President’s Address in Parliament, 23 May 2014

We need to prepare our system for the future. Our system has served us well in the past but we are reaching certain limits of how we can cater and cope with taking care of the lower income in our midst… we need a co-ordinator to come in and organise services right down to the local level because services are delivered at the local level… Structurally, I think the biggest change has been the setting up of the Social Service Office. It is responsible for ground sensing, local coordination of social services in particular geographical areas. Since [MSF] announced the setting up of the Social Service Offices at the Committee of Supply debates in 2013, we have gotten good feedback from our clients and partners.”
– Dr Benjamin Koh, Director, Social Service Office Division, Ministry of Social and Family Development, interview with the Civil Service College, 2 June 2014



Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Social Service Offices

Responding to the complex and often deep-rooted challenges which vulnerable individuals and families face, the public sector has often had to reorganise the way it delivers services, engages stakeholders, stays abreast of ground concerns, and coordinates support for Singaporeans in need. To bring a sharper focus to the Government’s work in the development of families, social services and social safety nets the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports was restructured on 1 November 2012, to become the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). 23
New structures may also be set up to improve the public sector’s responsiveness. The island-wide network of Social Service Offices (SSOs), launched in 2013, makes help more accessible to low-incomeSingaporeans by bringing social assistance and social services directly to HDB towns. 24 These programmes and services are also customised to meet the particular needs of each community.
SSOs are centres placed at easily accessible locations where residents in need of social assistance can seek help. They administer ComCare assistance programmes to those in need, and also work closely with stakeholders such as the CDCs, Family Service Centres, and other grassroots and community organisations to understand the profile and needs of each town’s residents. This ground knowledge helps in the planning and coordination of social services and community resources to support vulnerable Singaporeans in their respective neighbourhoods. 25 With a coordinated point of service, vulnerable families with multiple needs will receive better case management and more coordinated assistance from across different public agencies. Related matters, such as social intervention and employment assistance, can be better aligned, and made easier for the family to understand and act upon. SSOs also enable neighbourhoods to rally community support and assistance into networks of support that can help vulnerable households steadily improve their circumstances over time.

SG Enable and Agency for Integrated Care
Those with specialised needs have also been provided for. Organisations such as SG Enable and the Agency for Integrated Care have been streamlined into one-stop centres that provide coordinated and targeted support for people with disabilities, and those who require long-term care.

Expanding Opportunities: Growing the Early Childhood Sector

A strong foundation in early childhood can make a significant difference later in life. To ensure that children from less well-off families are not disadvantaged in this regard, the early childhood sector has been the focus of significant development in recent years. The objective is to give all children access to good quality pre-school education, regardless of their income group, so that they can be equipped with a strong foundation for lifelong learning and access opportunities to better themselves later in life. Low-income families are given higher subsidies for childcare and preschools so that they can send their children to these facilities.

To expand the sector and broaden opportunities for low-and middle-income families to access good and affordable childcare and pre-school education, the Anchor Operator scheme for kindergarten and childcare operators was further enhanced in 201 4with the appointment of new anchor operators. It works in tandem with the introduction of a childcare masterplan to rapidly expand the sector’s capacity. The Anchor Operator scheme supports operators that deliver good quality development programmes for pre-schoolers, provide professional development and career advancement opportunities for early childhood professionals and demonstrate strong governance practices. 26

Non-anchor operators can tap into the Pre-School OpportunityFund to develop programmes and projects that promote the sociopsychological and cognitive behavioural development of children from less advantaged families.

There are also dedicated outreach efforts to promote pre-school education. Social services providers including SSOs and Family Service Centres, in delivering assistance to low-income and vulnerable households, will also encourage parents to enrol their children in childcare and kindergartens. Although pre-school is not compulsory in Singapore, almost all children would have received one to two years of pre-primary education by the time they enter Primary One as a result of these outreach efforts.

Today, the situation has changed. If we rely too heavily on the individual, their efforts alone will not be enough... And there are some things which individuals cannot do on their own and there are other things which we can do much better together. So we must shift the balance. The community and the Government will have to do more to support individuals.
– Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister, National Day Rally, 18 August 2013

THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL SECURITY
AND SOCIAL SUPPORT IN SINGAPORE
Opportunities in Challenges
Singapore is not unique in having to evolve our approaches to social security and social support for the 21st century. Around the world, countries have had to rethink and redesign their social security and welfare systems to meet the changing needs of their people, as a result of dramatic shifts in social and economic contexts. Asian countries such as Indonesia, China and South Korea, which have tended towards minimal welfare provisions, are now expanding their social programmes in light of ageing populations, falling fertility rates 8 and growing citizen demands for their governments to do more as their economies mature and income disparities widen. 8 Contrarily, developed countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and United States, which offer relatively extensive welfare systems, are scaling back universal provisions and turning to programmes that tie welfare to work and to children’s specific needs. Even the Nordic countries are cutting back on their generous welfare spending as globalised competition strains the sustainability of their social systems. 8 There seems to be a growing consensus that social support must be tied to genuine need and shared responsibility, even as it helps societies to mitigate the effects of increasing economic volatility, complexity and uncertainty that all now face.

This is a balancing act that Singapore has had to maintain since the earliest years of Independence. While Singapore’s growing affluence means we now have much better resources to help the most vulnerable among us, our social challenges – an ageing population, falling fertility rates, and disparities of income, wealth and social capital – are also becoming more complex.

Nevertheless, the evolution of Singapore’s social security and social support systems over the past five decades show that our core approaches are resilient, adaptable and sound. Singapore’s social provisions have broadened, but they remain anchored in basic principles of self-reliance, individual effort and personal responsibility with family as the primary source of collective support. At the same time, there has always been a commitment to helping our more vulnerable fellow Singaporeans stand on their own feet and improve their lives, with support from the broader community. These principles have guided our social policies, programmes and structures at every stage of development. They will stand us in good stead, even as our institutions of social security and social support become more nuanced and responsive in ensuring that no Singaporean is left behind in our pursuit of better lives for ourselves and our families.

Today, the situation has changed. If we rely too heavily on the individual, their efforts alone will not be enough... And there are some things which individuals cannot do on their own and there are other things which we can do much better together. So we must shift the balance. The community and the Government will have to do more to support individuals.
– Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister, National Day Rally, 18 August 2013