MOS Tan Chuan Jin: Elderly who work do not want ‘assistance’ from government


“Singapore elderly who are still working in their twilight years do not want assistance from the government and Singaporeans should show some respect to them, declared Minister for National Development Tan Chuan Jin on his Facebook.”

The statement from MOS Tan CJ is correct. He is stating the hard truth. The truth really hurts. Oouch! But we need to acknowledge the truth. Let me elaborate and discuss the above statement.

Fact is most Singaporeans esp the older generations inherited this tenacious and survival instinct of those earlier pioneer immigrants. We can’t even lift a candle when compare to them! Look at the various clans and self help groups set up by those pioneer immigrants for their own survival. I’m considered 3rd generation local Singaporean. My parents were born locally. All my grandparents came from the coastal regions of China.

My parents aged 70 yrs and 75 yrs respectively are still working as low wage cleaners. My two brothers are school teacher and an engineer. Both are graduates with the latter having a PhD from UK. He earned it with many scholarships from polytechnic till university from the same company.


We are still giving monthly allowances to our parents yet they insist on working to stay fit and healthy. They also take pride in their ability to work. They always say that so long as they could walk and work, they would not stop. In their own words, they will only stop working if they are bedridden. People of their generation always look up to LKY as a role model. They say if ‘Lau Lee’ is still working, why can’t we? That was why MM Lee reminded this government to take good care of the usually less educated dialect speaking elderly Singaporeans when he and few senior ministers shockingly and abruptly resigned from the cabinet soon after the last GE. Let’s hope that this government will never forget that reminder from them to take care of the elderly. Let’s hope that MOS Tan will also not forget it.


MM Lee still possesses that enigmatic spell binding charismatic power over them. They really treat his hard truth as the only gospel and accept it totally without any discount. They belong to the solid unwavering 30% to 35% of hardcore supporters. Wonder no more why only old folks attended their rally. Younger generations like us do not bother about that ‘broken record’ he kept playing. Times have changed. That is a fact.

Let me take the liberty to quote you another source of reference. Our Fellowship member, Dr Vaikunthan R – an expert in micro hand surgery, consultant at Yishun Hospital related an incident to me whilst attending to an elderly Chinese lady patient.

Dr Vai – with a string of medical degrees and a published author ever worked in UK, US and Malaysian hospitals is also well versed in the Cantonese dialect.

First, Dr Vai interviewed the elderly Chinese at Yishun hospital in Malay without an interpreter to find out about her hand condition. Malay instead of English used to be the lingua franca amongst the elderly Chinese, Indians and Malays in those early days of our history. Her fingers due to aging could not bend completely and were stiff, losing some of its flexibility and functions. When Dr Vai found out that she is a Cantonese, he easily switched right away to her native language.

Lo and behold, that old lady’s initial reluctance to speak, all of a sudden turned into a talkative lady bird! She started telling Dr Vai that she is working in a Foodcourt collecting dirty bowls and plates and wanted Dr Vai to treat her stiff fingers soonest. She wanted Dr Vai to perform a simple operation on her nerves to restore her finger flexibility so that she could get back to work asap.

Dr Vai related this true encounter to us in one of our Fellowship meetings. The old lady became so agitated and endearing to Dr Vai due to his ability to speak her native Cantonese dialect. Dr Via remarked that she reminded him of his hardworking independent mother who took pride in her work refusing free handouts, always making herself useful and indispensable to those around her. Dr Vai wanted to hug that elderly lady patient there and then, who kept rattling away in Cantonese insisting immediate surgery to rectify her stiff lazy fingers so that she could get back to work asap.


Dr Vai, ever so observant and meticulous noticed that the old lady patient was accompanied by her daughter-in-law. The latter was seen wearing a solid full gold lady Rolex on her wrist. She seemed to be a well educated and wealthy looking daughter-in-law with a mother-in-law cleaner.

Dr Vai is still working as a consultant at Yishun hospital. There are many other interesting anecdotes from his vast medical experience. I’ll blog more and share them here if Dr Vai doesn’t mind. Suffice to say that this anecdote reaffirms our MOS Tan CJ’s controversial statement that generated so much cyber discussion. I’m also adding to the buzz. He has so far done well indeed.

Click here to watch Dr Vai in action.

A short introduction on Dr Vaikunthan Rajaratnam.

MBBS(Mal), AM(Mal), FRCS(Ed), FRCS(Glasg), FICS(USA), MBA(USA), Dip Hand Surgery(Eur), PG CertMedEd(Dundee), FHEA(UK)

Consultant Hand Surgeon, The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham

Mr Rajaratnam, Consultant Hand Surgeon working in the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, has more than 25 yrs experience in teaching and training doctors and medical undergraduates. He is an accredited hand surgeon and medical educator with numerous research presentation and publications in hand surgery, surgical education and management in medicine. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy UK and has a medical education qualification from Dundee with an MBA. He is the prime mover for two Masters programmes in hand therapy and professional administration, having developed the curriculum and e-learning course management systems. He has also worked as a management consultant to the insurance industry in developing systems for medical fraud prevention.

About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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31 Responses to MOS Tan Chuan Jin: Elderly who work do not want ‘assistance’ from government

  1. Roy says:

    Totally agree,they’re than those who offered to serve society and nation and asked for 3 millions dollars for serving


    • Actually I feel that paying them millions is not an issue if they can deliver. If you want quality, you pay for it. You pay peanuts you will get monkeys.

      The problem comes about if you pay thru your ass but end up with more than 44 itchy monkeys and 2 super horny monkeys. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? Langgar dah!


  2. dotseng says:

    Good Morning,

    Gintai, We all know what is happening here don’t we? Of course we do. Let me walk you all through this hall of mirrors. Forgive my directness and candor. Tan is simply perpetuating PAP’s broken record mythology of tenacity, sagacity and self reliance amongst the ranks of the destitute to justify why his party is continues to do so little to help the poor and needy. Fact is poverty has always been viewed in tautological terms by the PAP to serve their own ends. But how does that deny the crushing reality that poverty is cruel and should be eliminated?

    My feel is we should never cultivate the bad habit of calling a spade anything other than a spade. If we don’t learn how to see a thing for what it is. And instead choose to encrusted it with all sorts of sugary feel good fairytales then one day we will not be able to separate the trees from the forest- as life is not a fairytale, life is a very serious enterprise and it pays naught to see the affairs of the world through rose tinted glasses.

    Darkness 2012


    • Darkness 2012,
      ‘But how does that deny the crushing reality that poverty is cruel and should be eliminated?’
      So far, no country past or present can claim that poverty is eliminated even in those mighty countries like USA, Europe, Great Britain etc. Pls correct me if I’m wrong.
      Once we are clear on that, we can then move onward on how to lessen or alleviate those that have fallen thru the cracks. I refer to those weak, invalid, disadvantaged etc in our society. Of course that includes our elderly who are slogging their broken backs for mere peanuts. I understand and know where you coming from Darkness2012!
      Here you have my ceaseless admiration for your relentless efforts by rendering a voice in cyber space for the past 10 yrs akin to a shinning lonely knight in armour who is always defending and speaking out for the downtrodden! This is despite your relative wealthy status. You can just shut out and ignore. You can just enjoy your leisurely lifestyle with Pinot Noir with skewed baby wild boar over fire in your exclusive plantation enclave instead of langgaring the gods here which will only incur their wrath and serve you no tangible profits? I’m not that stupid not to understand ‘this hall of mirrors’ my fren.
      We just try as much as we could from different angles and different set-off points hopefully to accomplish the same objective i.e. persuade and convince this govt to spend more and care more for the misfits and unfortunate wretched in our midst. It’s a noble task we volunteered to undertake. That is one reason of many reasons why you have churned out articles for the past 10 yrs surpassing 1,000 posts. Pls correct me if I’m on the wrong tack.
      Thank you for leading the way.


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  4. says:

    By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise. – Adolf Hitler


  5. Good write-up. But don’t forget some people also feel the PAP govt not doing enough to help the elderly poor. Since they feel paiseh to take money, would it be better if we give it to them? Maybe should also consider bringing back dialect prog during the day time for aunties and uncles to enjoy. Action speaks louder than words.


    • Yes. The PAP is too harsh on older citizens viz viz dialect programmes. They denied them their only enjoyment in their twilight yrs. They shld make amends.


  6. I think therefore I am! says:

    What I can’t understand and can’t stand is that the pap always have a set of rules for themselves and a different set of rules for the rest of the citizens.

    The pap ministers have claimed that they are serving the country not because of money but they still proceed to pay themselves obscene salary anyway. Hence in the same vein, even if the elderly who work do not want assistance can’t they just proceed to help them anyway?


    • Yes, I did say that this govt better remember to take care of old folks. One way is to increase their miserable $800 pay a month. They work 8 hrs with only fortnightly off days. 2 weeks off 1 day. My parents receive quarterly income supplements in cash and medisave. But that is not enug.


    • Paul says:

      You are quite right. PAP ministers elected before 2011 are still if I am not mistaken entitled to pensions. IF our older relatives had decent pensions to live on, they could choose to spend their time looking after grandchildren, taking holidays or walks in the parks, learning new hobbiies, going to the library, doing so many things that elderly people do in other developed countries instead of working long shifts cleaning up after us.


      • Darling says:

        The next generation of taxi driver, security guard, cleaner and gardener etc
        could very well consist of graduate, ex/former executive and even professional.
        many of them will be lessees of million dollar 99 year lease HDB Flats.



  7. fish 'n' chips says:

    Your article only goes to prove and confirm what a bankrupt politician was trying so hard to warn us
    “The real challenge is NOT against the PAP but against what the PAP did to our minds”
    There you see, ASSISTANCE is a really vulgar word
    majority does not even dare to go near it, let alone touch it with a 10 foot pole
    PAP vs Citizens
    Score 1 : 0


    • Not only ‘assistance’ but many other words like ‘welfare’, ‘free’, ‘subsidy’ etc are also dirty words.


      • I think therefore I am! says:

        Let’s not forget another word which the whiter-then-white ghosts love to abuse “AFFORDABLE”!


  8. Anonymous says:

    yishun hospital? ktp hosital you mean?


    • Yes. I prefer Yishun Hospital cuz it’s at Yishun. Just becuz someone donated some millions, it can buy immortality? Soon, all our public buildings, schools, hospitals and yes all the MRT Stns are named after donors?


  9. Are you Sincere? says:

    For the reason stated by MOS Tan, PAP or any new government must ensure that there are suitable jobs for the elderly which pays decent salaries. If the government is truly interested in giving the elderly handouts and not just lip service, then what they can do is to tell employers that for every dollar they pay these elderly workers, the government will match the amount (up to $1,000 or some other amount) and the eldely worker then draw it as a salary. This way, employers definitely prefer to employ elderly Singaporeans rather than foreigners, right or not? The elderly will feel useful and the government seen to be helpful.

    MOS Tan, the ball is back in your court!


    • I did say that this govt better remember to take care of old folks. One way is to increase their miserable $800 pay a month. They work 8 hrs with only fortnightly off days. 2 weeks off 1 day. My parents receive quarterly income supplements in cash and medisave. But that is not enug. That is the thrust of my article.


  10. agongkia says:

    Bluff who?I want to work till I kick the bucket and I do not need any SINgaporean to respect me.When is the last time I receive help?Just tolong and leave me alone and dun put sand in my rice bowl I should be grateful.


  11. Darling says:

    The oldies who work to while away their time are victims of circumstances that caused them to be unable to relate closely with their families and others due to policies implemented over the last three decades. It is also due to the lack of hobby and social integration they are used to in villages where most originated from.

    The older generation had a unique village culture of kampong spirit(communal camaradie) that they can never have in the heartland.

    Me had posted a lengthier comment at which I will not repeat here. I am an elderly and had difficulty adapting to highrise living myself, even now. Honestly and frankly, I hate to work, however, I have to though I hardly had enough time to spend time with my children, grandchildren and friends because we DO NOT STAY TOGETHER OR WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE liked those days whence I was staying in the village. I have a few hobbies amongst which is participations in blogs, sound system appreciation and gardening(very restricted).

    I doubt MOS Tan Chuan Jin is able to empathize with the Older Generation as there is a culture gap which I do not believe he could understand.



  12. the singaporean from Perth says:

    One day we will all be elderly. Each of us will either be an elderly who works or an elderly who doesn’t. The government brushes off the needs of working elderly by citing they do not want assistance from the government. You might be prepared to work till your sunset age but are you sure you don’t want any assistance ?

    Let’s get this clear here fellow Singaporeans.

    How do we define the needy here? By whether they want assistance or not? It is no wonder our Ministers are paid so highly. Yes, they want it, and very very badly so. We need to look at what is right here. How do we come to a conclusion that the elderly who choose to work do not want assistance from the government? Just because many gritty elderly chose to work to pass time?


  13. One big problem with your example.

    Sure, the doctor meets alot of old worker patients, who actually work not for the money, but for the exercise.

    HOWEVER, there are countless of old workers with health problem, who will not consider going to the General Practitioner or even an expensive ‘Consultant’ because they cannot afford the cost.

    The example is pure anecdotal, and not representative of the real issue, and it proves nothing.


  14. K says:

    Make plans to migrate while u r still able. Sg dun believe in retirement. My dad dropped dead at 75, two weeks ago while at work. That’s the retirement he got. Blame the children for not caring? Blame the govt for not having welfare? No elderlies should be working pass 60 years old anywhere on earth.


    • My condolence to your Dad’s passing. May the Lord Buddha Bless Him. Om Mani Padme Hum. We are just transient brings waiting to pass on sooner or later. We just accept and make full use of whatever there is in store for us.


      • K says:

        Appreciate yur kind words. The pixs u used reminded me of him. Whenever I see the cleaning uncles in shopping malls, coffeeshops, toilets & mrts would serve as reminder to me. That could be the reality for some of us when we get old. The real kicker was when asked abt Workmen Com, I was informed tat it only cover death dued to accident during work hrs. And ElderShield doesn’t cover death too. So much for govt initiatives.… Yap, make full use of yur life & migrate. Dun expect too much from sg.


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