SingaporeTaxi driver shares picture of elderly woman picking up cardboard boxes on...

Taxi driver shares picture of elderly woman picking up cardboard boxes on eve of Chinese New Year

A taxi driver, Ghazali M Sadip, shared a picture of an elderly women collecting cardboard boxes on the eve of Chinese New Year at Bukit Merah Central. He said on Facebook, “it’s 7pm on the eve of Chinese New Year and seeing this just breaks my heart.”

Most Chinese consider the reunion dinner to be the most important part of the Chinese New Year celebration. The Reunion Dinner is an annual feast where family members reaffirm the love and respect that bind them together as a unit. It is also known as tuanyuan (or weilu) meaning “gathering around the family hearth”. This event is of sociological significance as it is a means to ensure the solidarity of the family and its cohesiveness. It is unclear if the elderly women had anyone to celebrate Reunion Dinner with on Chinese New Year.

Nafiz Kamarudin, leader of a community group, Happy People Helping People, said a few years ago that the number of elderly cardboard box collectors seems to have grown  in Singapore. His group provides monthly meal vouchers and provisions for elderly box collectors who are struggling to get by.

Speaking to The Pride, Nafiz felt that the ageing population and outsourcing of low-wage jobs to foreigners were contributing factors.

He said: “Most of (the elderly) are financially unstable because they don’t have jobs. There are those who have children, but unfortunately, Singapore’s cost of living is very high, and some are not earning enough to support their elderly. So these elderlies will find ways to make their own living.”

In responding to a question by Singapore Democratic Chairman, Dr Paul Tambyah, at the Singapore Perspectives 2023 conference organized by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that the majority of workers in Singapore want to work longer, as long as they are healthy.

Dr Tambyah has asked if the Silver Support scheme could be more universal to avoid a huge drop in income when they stop working. The scheme provides lower-income senior citizens with a quarterly cash payout during their retirement.

He touched on the age of retirement in Singapore and asked, “Would anyone actually want to be operated on by a 70-year-old neurosurgeon? Or ride in a bus driven by a 70-year-old bus driver?”

He added, “The basis of this question is the narrative seems to be that we need to keep working. And if we are unable to do a particular job, we’ve got to retrain.”

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