I refer to the article “Extraordinary People: In a life of limitations, frustration slowly turns into determination” (Channel NewsAsia, Sep 3).

Man born with cerebral palsy and whose parents have disabilities

It states that “In the first of a new series looking at Singaporeans with inspirational stories to tell, Channel NewsAsia’s Aqil Haziq Mahmud finds out about a man born with cerebral palsy and whose parents have disabilities, but who is making the best of his challenging circumstances.

Before Boon Hock’s birth, Mr Seng had been shuffling through a number of odd jobs, from setting up tentage to working on drains. Madam Neo, born mute and nearly deaf, worked at a laundry shop before switching to become an assistant at a nearby coffee shop, where she brings in about S$700 a month working 10-hour shifts every day.

Boon Hock was still in Primary 3 when tragedy struck. His father, who was earning S$100 a month as a newspaper collector at the time, was admitted to the hospital. Mr Seng was in pain and his left leg had turned blue. Doctors did not know why, but observed that blood had stopped flowing there. He had to have his leg amputated or risk dying.

Madam Wong’s son, Leslie Chow, called this a “big blow” for the family, especially because Madam Neo was jobless at the time.

“This impacted them financially and emotionally,” Mr Chow said. “They practically lost all income overnight and they did not know how life was going to be when the father is not able to move around or even find work.”

From about age 14 – a company sponsored his education/daily expenses after TV documentary

After a Chinese documentary on the family aired in 2005, a local manufacturing company offered to sponsor Boon Hock’s education and daily expenses.”

No mention of financial assistance?

Family of three (all with disabilities)

What struck me when I read this heart-wrenching story was that there is no mention of whether this family of three (all with disabilities) has ever received any financial assistance from the state?

Any assistance from ComCare?

Did they receive any financial assistance from ComCare?

Coffee shop assistant salary in 1990: $700?

As to Boon Hock’s mother “brings in about S$700 a month working 10-hour shifts every day … as “an assistant at a nearby coffee shop” in 1990 (as he is 26 now) – according to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Benchmarking Occupational Wages – the monthly gross median salary of a coffee shop assistant is now at $1,245.

Coffee shop assistant salary in 2016: $1,245?

0.5% p.a. real increase in salary last 26 years?

After adjusting for inflation of about 57 per cent from 1990 (CPI 63.058) to 2016 (CPI 98.932) – in real terms – the salary of a coffee shop assistant may have increased by only about 0.5 per cent per annum in the last 26 years.

$3.50 p.a. increase in monthly salary last 26 years?

In this example of Boon Hock’s mother – it may mean that she has been getting a real annual increase in salary of only about $3.50 (monthly salary) for the last 26 years.

Foreign workers depressed wages?

In this connection, to what extent has our liberal foreign labour policies contributed to the depression of salaries for lower-income Singaporean workers?


Leong Sze Hian
A.S.S. Contributor

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