Multistressed Low-Earning Families in Contemporary Policy Context: Lessons from Work Support Recipients in Singapore

7 July, 2020

Photo: ‘An inclusive society’ from SRN’s SG Photobank

World Population Day is an annual event established by the United Nations that takes place on the 11 July, which seeks to raise awareness on the urgency and importance of population issues that span across family planning, gender equality, poverty, maternal health, and human rights.

One of the biggest population issues that Singapore faces is widening income inequality, its Gini coefficient standing at 0.458 (as of 2018) as a result of globalization and economic restructuring. In ‘Multistressed Low-Earning Families in Contemporary Policy Context: Lessons from Work Support Recipients in Singapore’ (Journal of Poverty, 2013), Associate Professor Irene Y.H. Ng (NUS Department of Social Work) examines recipients of Singapore’s Work Support Program (WSP) implemented in 2009, and the kinds of economic and social struggles faced by these recipients.

The crux of the study shows that poor families often experience multiple stressors besides low income. They often have to grapple with challenges such as physical disabilities and mental health issues, and very often, the difficulties of raising children with health and/or behavioural problems. Different types of multistressed families were also identified, many of which are headed by single mothers. The article thus emphasizes that the poor often do not face isolated challenges of economic hardship, but instead experience them in a compounding manner with several different issues in interaction.

A/P Ng notes that although the Singapore government has taken major steps towards extending assistance to low-income groups, there remain mindset and structural hindrances towards more comprehensive assistance. More understanding and sympathy needs to be extended toward the challenges that prevent work and financial independence. Workfare programs must move outside of short-term programs focused on job placement and financial aid, and expand not just in terms of monetary value. Instead, more holistic efforts are needed to address social issues like children’s problems and chronic physical and mental health, which continue to form barriers to employment for low income families.

Read the full article here.