MSF Responds to Online Post About 82YO Woman Who Allegedly Earns $20 to Survive in S’pore

In the last two days or so, you might have come across a strongly worded Facebook post, alleging that an 82-year-old lady earned $5 an hour for 4 hours daily as a cleaning attendant and dishwasher, and that amount was all she has to survive in Singapore alone.

The post was repurposed from a series of Instagram stories, and it told a heart-breaking story of how the elderly has to survive with the measly $20 daily earning as her family members have passed on: her son died during a training exercise in NS while her husband has passed on a while ago. She has to live in a rented flat with her friends and therefore pay rent monthly.

She also claimed that she was supposed to be compensated $300 a month by the Government for the NS accident but “hasn’t received anything” yet.

Her story was related by the netizen who took the train with her. He also offered her $2, which she refused.

The netizen then went on a rant about the lack of minimum wage, and ended with a sentence: “No public servant in Singapore deserves to be paid $1M/year.”

Needless to say, the post went viral but you won’t be able to see it now as it’s been deleted. According to the netizen, he deleted the post “in light of new knowledge I received affecting the accuracy of the initial story + her turning down aid from members of the public.”

So what’s the “new knowledge?”

Well, he went to her workplace (turned out many people went, too), and  got to know that “she does have a son and daughter-in-law living with her, and does not live alone with other friend.”

And hours after that, the Ministry of Social and Family Development responded.

Story Doesn’t Match

This evening, MSF responded with a lengthy Facebook post, and it appears that they’ve been busy recently.

They’ve identified the elderly and it turns out there was, indeed, some issue with the accuracy of the initial story.

For a start, she doesn’t stay in a rented flat with friends but “is staying in a five-room flat with her son’s family. The family has a domestic helper. Her son provides her with food and shelter but she works to supplement her other expenses.”

As for her job, she was previously paid $1,300 a month as a full-timer, but due to COVID-19, her employer has turned her (and other cleaners) into a part-timer, so she “is currently paid $675 for working part-time in 4-hour shifts (or about $6.50/hr).” Her employer has mentioned that if business picks up, they’ll “reinstate the cleaners’ part-time employment to full-time.”

MSF is also “assessing her eligibility for the COVID-19 Support Grant (CSG), which provides monthly payouts of $500 – $800,” and would be helping her in other ways.

Now, how about the “son who died during a training exercise in NS”?

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According to MSF, “The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has verified that Mdm L’s elder son, a regular warrant officer, died during a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) freefall training session in South Africa, in May 2009. Full compensation was paid out to his family. MINDEF and the SAF extend their deepest condolences to the family.”

So, to sum it all up…

  • Living in a rented flat: not really true
  • $20 to survive: not really true
  • Paid $5 an hour: kind of true, but it’s due to COVID-19
  • Son’s NS accident: kind of true, but compensation has been paid in full

MSF then added, “Building an inclusive and a caring society is a collective effort. We appreciate the effort of members of the public in reaching out to those who seem to be in need. However, posting and sharing their circumstances on social media may lead to further distress for these vulnerable groups of people and their families. Such posts may not correctly reflect the circumstances of vulnerable groups of people, who may be elderly, or may not share all the details accurately because of the stressors they are facing.

“We encourage members of the public to please link them up directly with us through our SSOs or any Family Service Centre. In the case of Mdm L, she indicated she was unaware of being photographed or that her comments and photo would be shared in public on social media.”

You should call ComCare at 1800-222-0000 if you, indeed, spot a crack in society: i.e. someone who needs help but hasn’t got one yet.


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You can read MSF’s full post here:


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You may have come across a Facebook post, about a member of public’s encounter on the train with an elderly woman who…

Posted by MSF Singapore on Wednesday, 29 July 2020

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This Singapore love story set in the 90s shows you why you should never wait for tomorrow. Watch it without crying: