Abstract: Building Assets from Birth: The Singapore Story (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Building Assets from Birth: The Singapore Story

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 9:45 AM
Golden Gate 7, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Vernon Loke, PhD, Associate Professor, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA
Michael Sherraden, PhD, George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor, founder and director, Washington University in Saint Louis
Background: Singapore has one of the most innovative and comprehensive asset building policy structures in the world. It creates an integrated framework for asset-building across the life course for her citizens, with four programs specifically targeting children. This paper presents the various asset building accounts that serve children in Singapore. In addition, it discusses the distinctive features of the various programs and policies, drawing lessons from the Singapore experience for other countries and contexts.

Methods: The study uses a qualitative method and case studies approach to conduct policy analysis of asset-building policies for children in Singapore. Collecting and reviewing documentary information from previous research and governmental reports, we introduce four asset-building programs, define the problem assessed by the policy, assess policy objectives and its target populations and policy implementations, and examine policy effects.

Results: In 1993, the Singapore government established possibly the first universal child asset-building program in the world – the Edusave Account that focuses on improving educational outcomes of school aged children. Since then, three additional asset-building programs targeting children have been introduced and implemented, viz., the Child Development Accounts (CDAs) to support early childhood development; the Post-Secondary Education Accounts (PSEAs) for post-secondary educational purposes; and the Medisave Grant for Newborns to kick-start the Medisave Account – a health savings account – to be used for healthcare expenses and medical insurance. These four accounts are seamlessly integrated with each other, with unused balances eventually rolling over to the account holder’s Central Provident Fund.

Conclusion: Several important lessons can be generated from Singapore’s development of asset-building policies for children. The strong support for the asset building approach is due to its alignment with, and leveraging upon, the societal values and priorities of both the government and the people of Singapore. These short-term targeted accounts for children have been embedded in a life-long framework for asset building. Substantial governmental investment and transfers into the various asset-building accounts to ensure that meaningful sums of money could be accumulated and leveraged upon for developmental purposes. Universal eligibility and automatic enrolments have been recognized as being two necessary elements to achieve universal participation.