A popular saying goes that ‘it is expensive to be poor’. Poverty is a complex issue and has a huge impact on a person’s life in many aspects, and not just in the economic sense. With a lack of resources, the poor are often subjected to a scarcity mindset, and having tunnel vision. The argument is that that being poor leads to people making inferior life choices, evidently in the way some would choose to spend their financial assistance. Such bad choices entrap them further in the poverty cycle. Furthermore, constantly being under high stress impedes the cognitive functioning of a person to strategize in the long-term.

In the economic sense, being cash-strapped also means that one cannot take advantage of buying in bulk to enjoy savings, or enjoy the financial perks of credit cards. Shopping – even for necessities – therefore becomes more expensive for the poor than the average earner.

Additionally, studies by NUS researchers have shown that being poor is linked to people ageing faster. Interestingly, poverty has real impact on both physical and mental health.

Read the full article on Channel NewsAsia: How poverty tends to trap people into making poor decisions


Some may believe that the poor are poor because of personal flaws and inability to make a decent living for themselves. This is the mentality of ‘meritocracy’ and ‘self-reliance’. While that belief may be partially accurate, it is certainly not the whole truth. The conditions that a person live in play a big role in determining how economically successful he may be. Without enabling conditions and opportunities to succeed, it can be extremely difficult to break out of the poverty cycle.

Although Singapore is not a welfare state, we recognise that there needs to be support in place to help the poor. The role of social service organisations is to provide the aid needed for vulnerable groups in society to get back up on their feet again. It is not just about giving handouts but also about building resilience of the individuals and the communities. Another approach identified by social workers to break the poverty cycles is to help parents create a better growing-up environment for the children.

Questions for further personal evaluation:

  1. If we were the ones experiencing poverty, how would we want others to treat us?
  2. Why do you think people are poor?

Useful vocabulary:

  1. If we were the ones experiencing poverty, how would we want others to treat us?
  2. ‘wistful’: having or showing a feeling of vague or regretful longing
  3. ‘deprived’: suffering a severe and damaging lack of basic material and cultural benefits
  4. ‘impede’: delay or prevent (someone or something) by obstructing them

Picture credits:https://unsplash.com/photos/lQ2BzDNmnHE