GE2015: WP kicks off Punggol East rally with proposals for ageing population, immigration

The crowd at the Workers' Party rally on Sept 5, 2015
The crowd at the Workers' Party rally on Sept 5, 2015ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

SINGAPORE - The sight of the elderly clearing plates and cleaning tables at eateries was evoked by Workers' Party (WP) candidates on Saturday night, who said it was a sign of inadequate retirement funds and the need for better jobs for senior citizens.

Marine Parade GRC candidate He Ting Ru said a tourist once expressed surprise upon seeing seniors doing such labour as he thought Singapore was a prosperous country.

Jalan Besar GRC candidate Adrian Sim added that a lot of such cleaners were obviously physically weak and may even have illnesses.

Mr Sim also said the Pioneer Generation Package is not enough as it helps with healthcare costs but not other expenditures while Ms He took issue with the Government's characterisation of Singapore's ageing society as a "silver tsunami".

"Do you believe old people are like a flashflood ready to wash us away?" she said.

Instead, the WP believes in "celebrating longevity" and proposes to "empower the elderly" and "seize the opportunities presented by an ageing society", Ms He added.

As such, the WP is calling for "accelerated workplace and job redesign for senior workers". This can be done by having annual surveys to track employment of senior workers in various industries, she said.

The information can "identify gaps in areas where they are under-employed", or where age discrimination is an issue.

On retirement adequacy, Ms He said the Central Provident Fund retirement payout eligibility age should be lowered from 65 to 60. Silver Support payouts, which is for the low-income elderly, should be linked to and adjusted for inflation so that older Singaporeans are protected from rising costs of living.

Jalan Besar GRC candidate L. Somasundaram also spoke on the population issue but approached the subject from the perspective of immigration.

He said increasingly, he has been asked if he was Singaporean by people during his house visits. "This indicates the slow erosion of unity we feel as a people. It reveals the growing need to distinguish and divide between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans," he said.

To prevent the problem from deepening, the WP wants to "build a more sustainable or sensible immigration policy that focuses on developing a strong Singaporean core," he said.

Foreign spouses of Singaporeans should be given priority when applying for citizenship as they are most likely to integrate well because of family ties, he added.

Permanent residents should have five years of uninterrupted residency before being considered for citizenship, so as to ensure they spend a good amount of time integrating into the community, Mr Somasundaram said.

ziliang@sph.com.sg