There is not a single doubt in my mind that filial piety is a value that Asians need to uphold. However, we are now in a state of dilemma - to enact law to achieve an end, and that is to enforce filial piety legally to address the ageing population problem or to consider other means of achieving the same end result.
I would like to urge that all perspectives and circumstances are carefully considered and debated before enacting such a law to govern human relationship and family ties. Law is objective and trascends empathy in order to enforce justice. This destroys the basic element of any human relationship, especially complex family relationship further. To enact a filial piety law - will this compound our major problem of declining fertility further and contribute to more fewer marriages and more import of foreigners ultimately? I do not have an answer and I hope our Government has an answer to it. I agree with the social sector that we need to look beyond law to achieve such end.
We need to ask ourselves - what make our children foresake their parents? Is it due to heavy financial burden or health issue that the children cannot undertake this responsibility? Is it due to broken ties? Is it a blatant disregard of children' responsibility to their parents? If this is due to financial or health reasons, then, this is not a question of filial piety anymore because the children would also have a parental and personal responsibility to fulfill. Which comes first - a question that is not easy to answer. This would mean the government would need to find non-legal ways to help this group of people to support their aged parents in the very hour of genuine needs. If it is due to broken ties where the aged parents did not fulfill the parental responsibility in the first place, how then can we convincingly convince their children to live up to their part of the bargain later on. Any good and effective law needs to address this fundamental issue of fairness and equity. I know of aged parents who hoard their own money and expect their children to contribute to their monthly expenses, medical bills etc even when the children can hardly make ends meet. If this is a blatant disregard of filial piety, this is the group of people where the government should really go after but what is most tricky is how to enact law that targets this small group of people.
I would like to believe that most who forsake their aged parents belong to the first and second groups. No one, as a human being, would not shoulder the basic responsibility of taking care of their loved ones if financial state and health permit.
Singapore is facing an ageing population issue, the burden on the government is severe no doubt. However, to enact a filial piety law, we are just telling ourselves that this severe burden of responsibility should solely lies with our children and our future Singapore children. The world has changed dramatically and drastically in the last 30 years and the Singapore children who are born in the 60s and 70s face this largest burden of responsibility of taking care of our aged parents, rising cost of living, taking care of our children and at the same time worrying about job security. For example, during our parents' time, CPF contribution rate was the highest at 40% combined and there was no one single cut in CPF contribution rate. Our future children in the 80s, 90s and 2000s would even feel more stressful no doubt. Living stress could be more severe than my generation going forward into the future.
Business cyles are becoming shorter and shorter. In a short 12 years (1997 to 2009), Singapore has faced three major economic downturns in Asian financial crisis, dot com bubble and the present global financial crisis. We all rallied as one Singapore - both the Government and the people. I wish we will tackle this ageing population problem as one people together and shoulder this burden of responsibility as one Government and people.
If the premise is that a filial piety law can address the ageing population issue, then, it can also be concluded on the premise base on the same logic that we enact a parental law that each married couple must have 3 children at least or face a compounding fine to arrest the declining fertility problem. We have a stop- at-two population policy in the past. In this way, we will need to rely less on foreigner import to make up the number to sustain our economy. In China, there is such a penalty which I have heard where a couple would be fined for having more than one child under normal circumstance to contain the population problem.
Perhaps, we may consider some form of maintenance tax if our affluent children were to send their aged parents to old folks homes. In this way, it may make more sense to look after the aged parents at home to keep the family fabric intact and free up precious land resource to take in aged parents with a genuine needs by these old folks homes . For the