Beware 'models from the past' as some may no longer work: Sylvia Lim

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If Singapore had an unemployment insurance scheme, the Government may not need to spend as much as it is spending today to help workers tide over the coronavirus crisis, said Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) as she cautioned in Parliament against holding on to ways that may no longer be adequate.

If people were allowed to use excess Central Provident Fund savings before they reached 55, the age they can start to withdraw the money, some workers "would not be facing the cliff-edge today", she added.

Suggesting it might be time for Singapore to include more stabilisers in its system, Ms Lim warned about being "shackled to models from the past" that may no longer be appropriate.

In a speech that highlighted groups that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, she said Singapore had to be aware of its blind spots in order to emerge stronger.

Ms Lim said the virus and the circuit breaker period, during which people were asked to stay home, has had varying impact on different segments of society. For those with small or over-crowded homes, or who live with violent family members, staying home for most of the day has harmed some of them, contrary to the mantra of "Stay Home, Save Lives."

Essential workers, including cleaners, have continued to work on the front lines and be exposed to danger, while those who are more highly paid have been working from the safety of their homes, she added.

Another group she cited was women. She said the pandemic had exacerbated gender inequality with data from around the world indicating that jobs most exposed to the virus are largely held by women, and anecdotal evidence indicating mothers have been the ones spending more time than fathers on their children's home-based learning.

She called for gender-aggregated data in fields like public health and economics to be studied, saying it would make Singapore more resilient should another crisis hit.

Meanwhile, Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC), the only other WP MP to join the debate yesterday, raised the issue of whether President Halimah Yacob had been furnished with all information necessary for her to decide on the use of past reserves to fund some support schemes.

She had given in-principle support for the Government to draw up to $52 billion from the savings of past governments.

Mr Faisal wanted to know if she had been told exactly how much is in the national reserves before she made her decision.