To guide TMT over the next few years, we researched a report that identified 4 key Trends that will have the most impact on us thriving over the next 10 years.
TMT’s research helped the Board and Management set fundraising and grant-giving priorities over the next few years, laying the groundwork for our upcoming funds targeting the elderly, and targeting depression in youth.
Below is a summary of the 4 Trends
Key Trend 1:
Declining collective mental health
The first trend is our declining collective mental health. 1 in 7 people in Singapore have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, and the number of people who had two or more mental disorders at the same time has also increased. Young Singaporeans are especially affected, and most who suffer from mental illness suffer in silence.
This is worrying because their illnesses worsen without treatment and counselling, increasingly interfering with their lives. A 2019 YouGov survey found that 23% of Singaporean respondents engaged in self-harm. This was particularly prevalent among Singaporeans aged 18 to 24: over a third (36%) had self-harmed, and one in ten (10%) did so frequently.
Suicide rates also appear to be increasing. According to the Samaritans of Singapore, the suicide rate in Singapore rose 10% from 2017 to 2018, with suicides among boys aged 10 to 19 at a record high.
Key Trend 2:
By 2030, 1 in 4 Singaporeans will be aged 65 and older. Our twilight years will likely continue to be dominated by concerns over healthcare and employment. Many elderly also find it much harder to get work that is both dignified and pays enough.
Increased longevity affects family members too, especially caregivers. Caregiving burdens already predominantly fall on women, who have no choice but to work less or even leave their jobs. They also find it difficult to reenter the workforce. Caregiving could thus trap some in a vicious cycle of “ageing into poverty”.
Increasing longevity will also change social and family norms. For instance divorce rates for older persons are already increasing. Expectations about inheritance will also change. A family might also see two generations in retirement at the same time.
Key Trend 3:
Widening debates over how the government handles social needs
People’s definitions of “basic” needs and incomes are changing, spurred by Teo You Yenn’s 2018 book “This is What Inequality Looks Like” and other research. Teo and fellow researchers also completed a research project on what a “minimum income standard” for the elderly here. They used a methodology that enrolled members of the public, and asked them to determine which goods and services were required in order to have such a living standard. Hence the budgets were defined by ordinary people.
There is more demand from Singaporeans for community or public dialogues to try and resolve issues, as opposed to trusting solely in government intervention.
At the same time people are also more willing to take the initiative to address underserved groups or public issues, as opposed to waiting for government intervention.
Key Trend 4:
Growing economic insecurity
There may not be as many “good jobs” – work that is dignified and pays adequately – as before in Singapore. Our economic growth heavily depends on global trade and a stable international order, and both have come under threat. Even in the best of circumstances however, GDP growth is projected to be in the low single digits and there is less scope for wages to increase.
There are also signs of growing mismatches between employers and jobseekers. For instance Singapore’s overall unemployment rate has risen to 2.3%, while re-entry rates for those retrenched have declined.
Meanwhile many Singaporeans are unhappy with higher numbers of foreign workers. The pressure on government to relax its foreign manpower quotas is ever-present, and with it a possible resurgence in xenophobic sentiments.
In contrast, very rich Singaporeans can move capital around the world to take advantage of opportunities for high returns. Their wealth and incomes are not as dependent on how well the Singapore economy is doing. Richer children also tend to do better in school compared to their less-wealthy peers, and have even more advantages because the gatekeepers who determine access to education and job opportunities often define “merit” in ways that strongly favour privileged backgrounds.
This might worsen income inequality, especially when some groups feel they are “stuck” or “struggling”: over 60% of Singaporeans already expect either downward or negligible financial mobility over the next decade.