The big read: How COVID-19, dubbed the ‘inequality virus’, further widened the gap between rich and poor


Nonetheless, Dr Ong from NUS said there was a need to look in more detail at how training benefits low-wage workers.

“There are many programs to support the upgrade in these times of pandemic towards greater digitization of work. Many financial support programs are linked to the participation of individuals in training or activities aimed at improving their working situation, ”she said.

She stressed that it is crucial that training programs have a “real impact” on the wages and employment prospects of low-income people.

“Otherwise, it could just be extra responsibilities that they have to juggle, which can increase the risk of impaired psychological functioning, resulting in even poorer decision-making and performance,” she added.

TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE GAP

Assoc Prof Theseira said people should also be wondering if COVID-19 has made the situation worse for low-income households overall, even with the unprecedented amount of support they have received.

While there has been significant government support for low-income families during COVID-19, there is no data to show if this has put them back on the paths they were before the pandemic, a- he declared.

“We must consider that low-income families are likely to have suffered impacts that go beyond just lost wages. Career paths have been turned upside down, families have undergone tremendous stress of being trapped in what is often inadequate housing, and resources will have been depleted to deal with the various challenges of daily life under COVID-19 and our changing economic and social restrictions, ”he said. noted.

“We need to look at programs that go beyond simply ‘fixing’ lost wages, which has already been accomplished to some extent, and look at how to ensure that low-income families can participate in the economic recovery, helping them achieve higher incomes and better employment opportunities.

It also means tackling the burdens of everyday life, for example through flexible working arrangements, so that working-age members of these households can seek meaningful employment without having to compromise due to their personal circumstances. .

One such group, for example, is single mothers, who make up about 40 percent of Daughters of Tomorrow beneficiaries.

Ms Kua noted that working single mothers often find it necessary to reduce their working hours to care for the elderly or children, leading them to have little for themselves and become needy during their retirement years. due to a lack of savings.

“This is quite an important point, because if they do not have enough in their central provident fund or funds for retirement, it could end up in transgenerational poverty because the burden of care passes to their children, who may then have to quit their job. to take care of their parents, ”Ms. Kua added.

With the unprecedented amounts of financial assistance being used to help families in need stay afloat during the pandemic, several interviewees also reiterated the importance of enabling them to support themselves instead of relying solely on money. aid.

Ms Selene Ong, Acting Head of the Singapore Red Cross Society’s Community Resilience Department, said these families faced a plethora of challenges during the pandemic, such as loss of jobs and income, and are suffering a feeling of uncertainty.

This has made the process of getting a new job, either by upgrading one’s skills or seeking career guidance, seem long and uncertain.

“Some may even have lost hope along the way and relapsed into total dependence on help, which, although temporary, was provided almost immediately if they entered and presented the necessary documents,” Ms. Ong said. .

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