In the Institute of Policy Studies report on the 2015 election, they looked at three different clusters – the “Conservatives” who are voters who supported the political status quo, the “Pluralists” who supported greater political pluralism and change in the electoral system, and the “Swing” voters who have a mix of views. In their survey, the “Conservatives” made up almost 60% of the 65-years-and-above segment in 2015 post-election analysis, up from about 28% in 2011 – this represents the largest swing in this group to “Conservative” between the two elections. “Conservatives” are definitely more likely to vote for the PAP in keeping with the status quo. That swing in part helped to propel PAP’s popular vote increase in 2015 by almost 10% from 60% to 70%. If this trend holds, the ageing population will hold significant clout in elections going forward. The so-called silver tsunami will grow to 900,000 citizen-voters in 2030 from just 440,000 in 2015 – more than double in 15 years. And with increasing life expectancy in Singapore extending to 85-years, they will be voting for a long time!
What does the ruling government need to do to make sure that this ageing demographic continues to trend “Conservative” and remains motivated to vote for them? Here are some thoughts.
- With old-age support ratio dropping to just 2 persons in the working age (20-64) to support every person over-65 in 2030 compared to 4.9 in 2015, this will mean that it will be difficult to rely on the traditional family unit to provide support for the ageing population. Between taking care of their own kids and their ageing parents, the working-age adults will be caught in the middle and will be overstretched. If this is not addressed, the current ruling party may lose votes from only from the 65-and-above, but also the “sandwiched” class. This is a double-whammy!
- Singapore not only has one of the highest life expectancy (credit to its healthcare system) but also #1 in the world in Healthy Life Expectancy(HALE) – 76.2 years which will translate into a silver tsunami of demand for public infrastructure and services in the near future. These are some issues that will be very near and dear to this groups:
- The continuum of care as they grow older from being able to age-in-place to need for nursing homes is their primary concern. Will the government be able to help find them a place to live as they grow older and as their needs change? With the shrinking working population, this will be an urgent question the government needs to address.
- The demand for healthcare services for the seniors will not only explode in numbers but also change the types of services needed. For example, IMH estimates that 1 in 10 above 60-years-old will suffer from dementia and the numbers is expected to exceed 100,000 in a few years. Apart from mental health, chronic diseases associated with ageing will also increase drastically. Keeping healthcare affordable and accessible will be an increasing election issue for this group.
- Singapore has built a world-class transportation system that will now have to pivot to an ageing population. Most relevant is whether the transportation network is user-friendly to the seniors and if costs can remain affordable. Today, the government provide subsidies for all seniors above 60-years when they use public transportation and policies to improve transportation will be an ongoing issue to seniors.
- Keeping the 65-years-and-up group stay engaged and happy as a community will also translate to votes. Through grassroots engagement, issues impacting the seniors negatively can be identified and rectified quickly before it becomes a political liability. The People’s Association is already actively rallying the seniors with various activities including lifelong learning, get-togethers, mini road trips and organized exercise activities. Helping them remain engaged in the community in a meaningful way will be appreciated.
- The IPS study also shows that the Conservative clusters are moving towards supporting “the need for diverse and opposition voice and for “checks and balances”. The 65-years-and-up group have been known to swing in and out as Conservatives (as noted in 2011 and 2015). One major event in the near future that the Conservatives will pay close attention to is the PAP transition of leadership. Part of the reason they are Conservatives is because of their trust in the “old-guards”. The changing of the guards must be done in a way that does not spook the Conservatives.
Download the IPS Post Election Conference 2015 deck here. Another deck that is worth reading is “Ageing in Place” by MOH.