So you want to be a social worker (Photo by Ng Shi Wen)

So you want to be a social worker?

The work and welfare of the Singaporean social worker are scrutinised every now and then, most recently when member of parliament Carrie Tan raised the question on who is allowed to be a social worker. Episodes like this do help increase public awareness, but such discourse should instead be sustained with greater consistency. In introducing the new “The Work of Social Work” podcast mini-series, as a small starting space, future episodes will be devoted to parliamentary questions and policy proposals raised in parliament, community-building, and practice research.

COVID-19, over 716 days later (Photo by Ng Shi Wen)

COVID-19, over 716 days later: Confronting Singapore’s long-term, pandemic-linked social challenges

So much ink has been spilled on Singapore’s healthcare and public health response to the ongoing pandemic. Yet, there will be an end to COVID-19, and the start of 2022 feels like a good time to shift some of the public focus to our country’s long-term, pandemic-linked social challenges. In this short episode, I summarise the most urgent and obvious problems – migrant, healthcare, and economically disadvantaged essential workers – before detailing four challenges which have received less attention: First, the harm to children, adolescents, and youths; second, compounded socio-economic inequality; third, social isolation; and fourth, ambiguous loss and unresolved grief.

The State of Happiness study (Photo by Ng Shi Wen)

The State of Happiness Study: So what makes the average Singaporean happy?

How happy are Singaporeans? Or what makes a Singaporean happy? Local social enterprise the Happiness Initiative (happinessinitiative.sg) sought to answer these questions through its 2021 State of Happiness Study. Here’s what they found. With psychological and social factors, Singaporeans who have purpose, grit, and social support are happier on average. And with socio-demographic factors, those with lower household income and those who identified as bisexual or homosexual report lower life evaluation. These findings may not be surprising to some, and so we put these questions to co-founder Simon Leow, who details the study methodology and the broader implications of the findings. We also discuss some limitations.

What is a basic standard of living (Photo by Ng Shi Wen)

What is “a basic standard of living”? A deeper research and methodological dive into the Minimum Income Standard study (with Drs. Ng Kok Hoe and Teo You Yenn)

Since the publication of the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) study (whatsenough.sg), which sought to establish what constituted basic needs in Singapore and the household budgets needed to meet those needs, public discussion has taken two related directions. First, focusing solely on the S$6,426 dollar figure needed per month for partnered parents with two children, and then extolling Singaporeans to “spend within their means”. And second, criticising the study’s methodology without, in my opinion, fully understanding it. Some said, for instance, that the MIS study was analogous to interviewing colleagues about daily budgets before asking bosses for a salary raise.

Every research study has its limitations. But a fair evaluation only follows if we know the research motivations and methodology. It is with that in mind that we host Drs. Ng Kok Hoe and Teo You Yenn, members of the MIS study, who explain a “basic standard of living”, detail the study methodology, and address five common responses and rebuttals to the study.