Support For Vulnerable Groups: How Can The Community Step Up?
The COVID-19 pandemic has left us #shookth, and vulnerable groups in our society have a tendency to be hit harder. This begs the question of how better we can support vulnerable groups, such as low-income workers and migrant workers in times of need?
In light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Emerging Stronger Conversations platform was realised to enable Singaporeans to share their ideas and take action on how we can collectively emerge stronger from the crisis. The National Youth Council (NYC) conducted a series of engagements to allow young people to share their sentiments and recommendations on how Singapore can overcome the effects of Covid-19.
Support for Vulnerable Groups (SVG) is a topic under the Emerging Stronger Conversations Youth Track. We focused on the following groups which the youths deemed as most affected by the pandemic:
COVID-19 has been a trying time, having affected the jobs, livelihoods, and mental wellbeing of many. Many individuals and households have been hit hard, be it through the loss of income/jobs, higher expenses incurred amidst the circuit breaker, or even the stress of caregiving.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed essential workers continuing to work hard, many at the frontline and often at risk of their own health. Despite improved perceptions of these workers, their jobs may not seem well-respected and not many are willing to work in such roles.
This group had the most number of COVID-19 cases within Singapore where worker dormitory conditions contributed to the many migrant workers getting infected.
Beyond these conversations, NYC will provide opportunities for youths to take ground-up action, and contribute towards policy change.
WHAT WE HEARD
NYC launched a Milieu poll to broad-sense on 500 youths towards vulnerable groups, especially with regard to the areas of (i) Low-income Families, (ii) Migrant Workers, and (iii) Under-appreciated Workers. To complement the sensing data, we also launched three OPPI polls to understand youths’ areas of convergence and divergence on such issues.
Majority of youths are of the view that more should be done to support vulnerable communities post COVID-19 given the worsening of economic and social inequality in our society and are willing to personally contribute to supporting these communities.
The top ways to support low-income households are through providing job support, subsidies and education & career planning support. From the OPPI poll, youths agree that the needs of low-income households can also come in the form of providing access to levers that will help their situation such as access to technology. In addition, when providing support, youth mentioned on the need to pay attention on the manner in which support is extended, to treat these communities with dignity.
Apart from better working conditions, higher wages and subsidies as top ways to support these communities in the Millieu survey, youth feel that more recognition and value can be given to their work. This sentiment is echoed in the OPPI poll, where 88% of youth agree that our society valued the work of underappreciated workers only during times of crisis. The silver lining is that COVID-19 has made 9 in 10 youth appreciate workers in essential services more.
Youth feel that migrant workers can be supported through better living conditions, better protection from ill treatment from employers, and better working conditions. As much as it is the government’s role to help alleviate the situation, the OPPI poll revealed that 85% of youths agree employers have a role to play as well and that 72% feel that migrant workers’ should be responsible for their own personal health and hygiene. The OPPI poll also shared that 72% of youth respondents empathise with the challenges faced by migrant workers but 66% do not have a clear idea of how they can help migrant workers. Attitudes towards migrant workers do seem split currently with 54% of youth respondents thinking that Singaporeans are discriminatory against migrant workers and 49% being open to greater migrant worker integration in Singapore society.
OUR GRANDFATHER STORY (OGS) TALK SHOW: “THE INVISIBLE STORIES OF SINGAPORE”
Click to watch
NYC partnered OGS to conduct a virtual dialogue with youths from NYC’s leaders’ network on 12 August. The talk show aimed to address youths’ concerns and misconceptions held about low-income families and underappreciated workers. The talk show was hosted by Wen Qi from OGS and featured three youth panellists: Nur Hazeem, Jean Loo and Amanda Chong. NYC Council Member, David Hoe, also shared his recent involvement in starting Project Stable Staples and how different segments of society and individuals can better support low-income families and underappreciated workers. You can watch the talk show here.
EMERGING STRONG CONVERSATIONS MULTI TRACK YOUTH DIALOGUE
NYC organised a virtual dialogue with about 120 youth participants on 26th September. The session, hosted by Minister Edwin Tong, featured breakout sessions on the themes of (i) Jobs and Future of Work, (ii) Support for Vulnerable Groups, and (iii) Environment and Sustainability.
Minister of State Sun Xueling and Parliamentary Secretary Eric Chua helmed the discussion for Support for Vulnerable Communities. Participants shared that low-income families face space and resource constraints at home, which made working or learning from home challenging during the circuit breaker period. Participants agreed that these physical and resource constraints could result in mental stress and family members falling behind in their study or work commitments.
In addition to providing resourcing aid, equal emphasis should be placed on equipping low-income families with relevant technical and soft skills to complement the resources provided. Participants also voiced their views that migrant workers were often unfairly paid for the work they perform. They highlighted the power asymmetry between employers and migrant workers, adding that migrant workers may not be aware of avenues to seek help. Participants shared that Singaporeans needed to have greater cultural understanding and empathy towards migrant workers.
Overall, participants felt that efforts to support vulnerable groups should be a combined effort between the government, communities, and individuals. In particular, they recognised that communities could step forward more, to help identify and support those in need.
If you are keen to find out more about what is currently being done to support those in vulnerable groups, here are some useful links to check out.