SINGAPORE’S Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to the country’s elder generation in his Chinese New Year address on Thursday as the city-state marks an inauspicious turning point for its greying population in 2018.
“Our population is aging. We are working to enable Singaporeans to lead active and meaningful lives in their silver years,” Lee said in the Prime Minister’s Office Singapore website.
“This means creating strong social support and community networks, keeping elders socially engaged, and building up healthcare systems and services.”
Lee said honouring the country’s seniors and nurturing the young are not just limited to individual families, they are values and attitudes which hold Singaporean society together.
“As a people too, we should look after the elderly as we are the beneficiaries of their labours, and care for the young who carry our hopes for the future,” he said.
“It is not just younger generations taking care of their elderly parents, but today’s generation looking ahead and providing for our older selves of tomorrow.”
Lee said at the same time, Singapore is striving to give its young generation the best chances in life, adding the country was fortunate to be situated in Asia, a dynamic and fast-growing region. We should prepare ourselves to seize the many economic opportunities around us.
“We should make full use of new technologies, to progress with our partners and neighbours.”
In majority-Chinese Singapore, Chinese New Year with reunion dinners and open houses. Many Singaporeans abroad, Lee said, will make an effort to connect with their families back home, and celebrate the festive season.
“We stay up through the night to see the year in for our parents’ longevity and give our children red packets for good fortune,” he said.
“These customs reflect the enduring hopes of every generation, that our ageing parents live well in their silver years, and our children grow up happy and successful, in a peaceful and prosperous world.”
Lee said the government would continue to invest in Singapore’s infrastructure, and upgrade its living environment and economy, so that the next generation can continue to create new possibilities, prosper and flourish.
“We should uphold our time-tested Asian values of thrift, self-reliance, and leaving something more for our children, instead of burdening them with their parents’ debts,” he said.
“We must always think beyond the immediate and beyond ourselves, to look and plan over the horizon on behalf of future generations”
Research by Francis Tan, an economist at United Overseas Bank, found that in 2018, the share of the population that’s 65 years and older will match those younger than 15 for the first time.
In December, Tan said the elderly population starts to crowd out the youth, the “demographic time bomb” may mean changes to taxes, immigration rules, and social services, according to the Straits Times (via Bloomberg).
“Singapore is facing one of the toughest economic and social challenges since its independence in the form of a rapidly ageing workforce and population,” Tan said.