Low wages, high cost of living and youth violence

December 16, 2010
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Darren Ng killed by a rival gang

The high cost of living coupled with inadequate wages in Singapore have serious – sometimes deadly – consequences for the people. The recent spate of violence involving teenagers are a manifestation of the economic problems that is impacting society.

The high-profile and horrifying murder of 19-year-old polytechnic student Darren Ng on 30 Oct 2010 is but one example. The state media tried to play down the incident by saying that the incident was the result of a staring incident involving unruly teenagers. Implied in the report was that the slaying was an aberration of a normally peaceful and orderly society.This theory was roundly debunked as stories surfaced in the new media that Darren was in fact involved with a street gang out for a showdown with a rival gang. Subsequent police investigations confirmed this and a followup dragnet hauled in 40 gang members. 

Barely a week after Darren Ng’s killing, another group of seven youths claiming to be members of the triad, ‘369’, went on a rampage in the Bukit Panjang estate where they slashed several members of the public with knives. The orgy of violence shocked the community to its very core.

One of the victims said that the boys had surrounded him and his friends, accusing them of being members of another secret society ‘Pak Hai Tong’ and started slashing them.

And get this: The youngest among the assailants was only eight years old.

That same month but in a separate incident two boys, aged 12 and 14, were arrested for punching and trying to rob a 79-year-old man in Ang Mo Kio.

Just last week three youths, aged 13, 15 and 18, were arrested for a horrendous bout of violence. A 23-year-old man was slashed by a group of youths wielding parangs in the Yishun estate. He managed to fend off his attackers and sought help from residents, crying out: “Somebody chopped my hand.”

He was not alone. Another group of teenagers was also attacked with one of them ending up being covered in blood with injuries to his head and arms.

Where are the parents?

One of the biggest factors contributing to such an escalation of youth violence and waywardness is the lack of firm parental guidance.

It was reported that juvenile delinquency or teenagers who were “Beyond Parental Control” was at an all time high (All is not well with the family in S’pore, Straits Times, 4 Jan 10). The rate of reported cases in the Juvenile Court tripled from about 200 cases per year in the late 1990s to more than 700 cases in 2009.

The aftermath of the ‘369’ attacks in Bukit Panjang

Statutory rape cases involving minors (girls under 14 years) increased 36.1 percent between 2008 and 2009. These cases involved girls who had consensual sex with their male acquaintances.

The obvious question is: Where are the parents?

Most of them are working, of course. Wages in Singapore are so low that without both parents earning incomes, it is impossible for households to meet the family’s expenses.

The SDP has worked out that the average household expenditure exceeds the median income of workers (see here). Even with the rise in median income announced recently, the high rate of inflation has meant that real wages continue to be inadequate for meeting the cost of living in Singapore.

As a result, most families need double income to make ends meet. With both parents out of the home and without parental supervision, is it any wonder that youths inceasingly turn to nefarious activities?

Vice attracts vice. The opening up of the casinos also open up a whole new world for money-laundering, prostitution and drugs. Criminals come together to form syndicates and gangs. These gangs prey on youths – youths who find themselves without parental love and discipline.

All this because of the PAP’s policy to push more people to work harder and cheaper. It is a policy that is unsustainable and will be the ultimate undoing of our society. The Government’s greed is the people’s grief.

But it is not just the PAP that is responsible for this scourge. Our journalists are failing us because, where they should be heightening the awareness of the public of such a myopic economic approach, they are keeping their heads down and being accomplices in a tragedy that is unfolding before our very eyes.

Apart from a few sensational reports about the Darren Ng and the other cases, there has been little analysis about the causes of these youths committing such mindless acts. They seemed unwilling to connect the dots from the Straits Times report in January 2010 about the tripling of court-processed cases of juvenile delinquency to the recent spate of teenage criminal violence.

They prefer to cheerlead Singapore into believing that our economy is undergoing unprecedented growth and all should rejoice and be grateful. The GE is, of course, not far away.  

The Singapore Democrats have repeatedly stated that material gain must lead to a collective social good. Gain for its own sake can be destructive to social processes and to a community. The shocking breakdown of law and order among our youths is an example of such destruction.

With whatever resource we have at our disposal, the SDP will continue to be our society’s conscience and keep the voice of reason and sanity from being drowned out by a government whose obsession with GDP growth is hurting the very people it purports to help.