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When filial piety gets outsourced

PLIGHT OF THE ELDERLY: Increasingly, the elderly - such as this man living in a one-room HDB flat who is estranged from his family - are living on their own because their children no longer want to house them.


    Jun 25, 2014

    When filial piety gets outsourced

    A MAN asked his elderly parents to leave his home, and told them to approach a Member of Parliament to get a rental flat and fend for themselves, wrote Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing on his Facebook page yesterday.

    Mr Chan wrote that he was "sad and angry that (the) son did not take care of her (the mother) and passed that responsibility to society".

    Increasingly, the elderly in Singapore are living on their own, not because they want to, but, rather, because their children no longer want to house them.

    In the case mentioned by Mr Chan, the elderly couple had been living with their son, his wife and three children for many years, before the son obtained a new flat and decided that his parents will not be able to stay with his family in the new place.

    Other MPs that My Paper spoke to have seen similar cases.

    Tin Pei Ling, MP for Marine Parade GRC, said that some children don't want their parents to stay with them and "outsource the entire care of their elderly parents to the Government, because they know the Government will help them".

    "This wholesale outsourcing of filial piety should not be encouraged," she said, especially when the child is financially able to care for his parents and has the space to accommodate them.

    Lim Biow Chuan, MP for Mountbatten, voiced his concern for this growing trend and asked whether "the state should then have to pick up the tab for these people".

    "This is a worrying trend... especially in an Asian society where filial piety is valued. The children need to recognise their responsibilities and be mindful of their parents," said Mr Lim.

    Of course, there are cases where the parents may prefer to live on their own, apart from their children.

    "Some parents prefer not to burden their kids and may want to have their own privacy and space," noted Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng.

    Sociologist Paulin Straughan noted that, while a three-generation household is encouraged in Singapore, "we also have to be prepared that it may not be ideal for certain families to live under one roof".

    With more educated working women in Singapore, "many of them are not as inclined to want to live with their in-laws as before", said Associate Professor Straughan.

    "I think that, at some point, we just need to accept that this may be the new norm.

    "We have to be prepared to redefine the notion of filial piety. Not living under one roof together should not be indicative of a lack of filial piety."

    Iris Lin, senior social worker at Fei Yue Community Services, said that some children show their care for their folks by "giving monetary support and providing them with domestic helpers" instead.

    "Parents are accepting because they know that children face a high cost of living and need to work," said Ms Lin, 33.

    She added that there is an "upward trend" of children preferring to stay with parents because they are able to take care of the grandchildren.

    But in the case that Mr Chan referred to, the minister said: "Wonder what lesson (the) son has passed on to his own teenage children."