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    Jun 27, 2014

    Report on filial piety sparks debate

    WHEN My Paper reported the case of an elderly couple who were forced to apply for a rental flat because their son had turned them out, it obviously struck a chord among Singaporeans.

    The report, which appeared on Wednesday, touched on the "outsourcing of filial piety" - when grown-up children feel that it is the Government's job to look after their parents.

    It drew some 280 comments on The Straits Times' Facebook page. Two out of three respondents who commented on the topic felt that it was the job of the children - and not of the Government - to take care of ageing parents.

    The case of the elderly couple was first mentioned by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing on Tuesday.

    A majority were angered by the incident, stating that caring for parents should be a given. One of them is Facebook user Jenny Chai, who said: "Looking after our parents is not the Government's duty. Filial piety is the key to family bonding."

    However, about a quarter of netizens raised concerns over high living costs and felt that the Government needed to bear part of the responsibility.

    Netizen Timothy Soh pointed out: "The children can't even take care of themselves, much less others."

    Facebook user Kava Kaur said that those facing high expenses have "no resources to take care of their parents".

    This stance was rebutted by others. "We are not the only generation that suffered the high costs of living," said netizen Lim Xin Mei.

    Similarly, netizen Nafeesa Docura felt that filial piety means going beyond bearing the financial burden. "You can maintain ties if you cannot give financial help... They are not mutually exclusive," she said.

    Despite financial woes and personal difficulties, many Singaporeans feel that caring for one's parents is a moral obligation that should not be compromised.

    Netizen Vani Naidu recounted the difficult times that her mother went through. Ms Vani's mother, a widow for 40 years and mother of eight, lost her house and up to $80,000 to her sons, who had neglected to care for her.

    Now, Ms Vani cares for her mother, who has dementia and is bedridden, and she does not mind the burden.

    When contacted, Tin Pei Ling, MP for Marine Parade GRC, said that she is "glad that a majority of the people feel that filial piety is important" and that it is a "positive sign".

    Ms Tin said that financially capable families should try to bear a higher burden of the cost of caring for their parents.

    Having said that, she recognised that families facing financial difficulties should get more support from the Government.

    "The Government has a part to play in supporting families," said Ms Tin. "The question is to what extent."