How Singapore is tackling the challenge of an ageing population

National Development Minister Desmond Lee also said that the family is the first line of defence to address the issue.

Royston Sim

Royston Sim

The Straits Times


Singapore’s healthcare expenditure will rise significantly as its population ages and people live longer. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

January 20, 2023

DAVOS – Singapore will continue to innovate and seek solutions to enable active ageing as its population greys, said National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Wednesday.

Speaking at a World Economic Forum panel titled The Economy Of A Super-Ageing Society, Mr Lee outlined how the Republic is addressing the issue of an ageing population.

He cited community care flats – senior-friendly public flats combined with care services – as an example of innovating in the area of housing.

Two such projects have been launched, in Bukit Batok and Queenstown.

The Agency for Integrated Care, meanwhile, is responsible for helping seniors navigate government policies and connecting them to services they need, added Mr Lee, who is also Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration.

Panel moderator Martine Ferland, who is president and chief executive of consulting firm Mercer, had said that in less than 30 years, one in five people in the world will be aged 60 or above.

Mr Lee said that one in four Singapore citizens will be aged 65 or above by 2030. About 18.4 per cent of Singaporeans were 65 or older in 2022, up from 11.1 per cent in 2012.

The family is the first line of defence, he said, adding: “And then the Government and the community come in to enable the individual, the family and the community to provide care.”

Other measures to deal with an ageing population include government funding for social services, as well as having nursing homes, hospice care, and a legal framework to enable caregivers to make decisions on behalf of seniors who may have lost their mental capacity, Mr Lee said.

Responding to a question from the audience, he said the Republic’s healthcare expenditure will rise significantly as its population ages and people live longer.

The Singapore Government will fund the additional healthcare spending by raising taxes and streamlining expenditure, he said.

“We’d never borrow to spend on ourselves and expect the next generation to pay for us. Especially with the kind of demographic curve like that… it’s not sustainable,” he said, adding that the Government is also helping as many seniors as possible to remain healthy and active.

Panellist Noura Berrouba from the Global Shapers Community, which is a network of young people under 30, said new approaches are needed, including migration as a solution to the ageing issue.

There is also a need to ensure “intergenerational solidarity” and a sense of equity between seniors and young people, she added.

Mr Lard Friese, chairman and chief executive of Dutch financial services firm Aegon, listed three things that will allow people to lead better lives as they live longer.

These are: starting financial planning early in life; maintaining physical and mental well-being; and continually picking up skills to remain productive, he said.

Insurers also have to work at simplifying the process of retirement planning, and help people build up their savings, he added.

But Ms Berrouba noted that with the world in a cost-of-living crisis, some young people have no access to housing or enough savings.

“This is the reality – people face daily crises trying to feed their families and themselves, and put a roof over their heads. Of course, people don’t have time or even the foresight to plan for 30, 40, 50, maybe even 70, 80 years into the future,” she said, adding that this problem had to be addressed, including by employers.

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