Honour parents, says nanny state
Sunday 09 June 1996
The island state's legislators have passed a law to ensure that Singaporean children do not duck out of their responsibility to look after elderly parents - a common enough problem in the West, but, according to the advocates of "Asian values", something practically unheard of in Asian societies. Old people, they say, are treated with more respect, and tend to be cared for within an extended family.
Last week, however, a tribunal was established in Singapore which allows parents over the age of 60 to seek legal redress from children who fail to support them. It promptly received 11 applications and a number of other enquiries from potential applicants.
At a meeting with government officials earlier, 100 staff from hospitals and voluntary organisations were asked to detail cases of neglect. According to the Straits Times, they recounted instances of children refusing to visit elderly parents in hospital, being reluctant to take them home after discharge and refusing to pay for parents placed in nursing homes. The view of Lim Hsiu Mei, director of social welfare at the Community Development Ministry, was that "there is business for the tribunal, then".
Closer examination, however, suggests that far from being the response to an epidemic of abandoned grannies, this is simply the latest example of Singapore's passion for social control. Nearly 90 per cent of the country's elderly live with their families, and exceptions to what the Singapore authorities call "filial responsibility" are hard to find.
Even the Straits Times, which can usually be relied on to support the government, found little evidence of financial neglect of parents by children.
"There's a lot of evidence that it's not a huge problem, but it's felt that there should not be any of it," said a retired sociologist in Singapore. "It's a way of expressing a widely shared sentiment more than a way of helping."
Lim Bee Kim, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Community Development, insisted: "The government believes that it should not intrude into the private lives of families." The tribunal was "an avenue for aged parents to make known their need for financial support, not a mechanism to be imposed by every aged parent against their children".
But Singapore rarely hesitates to intervene in what other states might consider an individual's private business. People with higher education are encouraged to marry one another, there are strict rules of behaviour for people living in housing estates - even pets come under a strict regime.
Lee Kuan Yew, the grand old man of Singapore politics, has proposed that the state take a further step in regulating the lives of its citizens by limiting to two the number of properties which each child can inherit. He sees this as part of the process of fulfilling the "Singapore Dream" of redistributing wealth.
Tony Blair, the leader of the Labour Party, recently visited Singapore and endorsed both Mr Lee and the Singaporean system. It remains to be seen whether the latest experiments in social engineering will form part of his vision for the new Britain.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 2 Japanese plant experts produce 10,000 lettuce heads a day in LED-lit indoor farm
- 3 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 4 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Israel-Gaza conflict: Death toll tops 125 after overnight raids as Operation Protective Edge continues
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Ian Thorpe gay: Olympic swimmer comes out in Parkinson interview
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Gaza-Israel conflict: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take to streets of London, Paris and New York in wave of protests
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...
£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...
£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...