This year has been a bummer for all of us. Few have the luxury of saying they have been unimpacted by COVID-19. More Singaporeans than ever are in the gig economy, doing food delivery and freelancing to shore up their income. This is why I am unsurprised to hear that there have been more Budget 2020 grocery voucher thefts.
In an article published in April this year, The Straits Times reported that food delivery riders were earning less than they used to, due to there being more riders than ever. Also, the Singapore University of Social Sciences observed from statistics provided by the Ministry of Manpower that the number of freelancers in Singapore is trending upward, year after year. This number will only increase as full-time and contract workers lose their jobs in record numbers transition to freelancing to boost their income.
With such a sluggish economy and an uncertain outlook for so many, it’s no wonder that people are worried about their future. When it was announced that $150 in grocery vouchers would be released in early October, it must’ve been a relief for some.
According to the TodayOnline article, a total of 38 people have been arrested or investigated so far for stealing grocery vouchers issued by the government. A photo of a back-scratcher was attached to the same article. It had apparently used by one of the thieves.
You know people are desperate when someone looks at their back-scratcher and wonders, “Can I use this for crimes?”
I say this not to make light of anyone who is struggling due to the pandemic, but to bring to your attention that somewhere, in a police precinct, some officer had to tag and bag this object for evidence. There’s something sad and absurd about this whole situation.
Meanwhile in parliament, actual adults are debating over the necessity for a basic minimum wage of $1,300 in Singapore. Have we not learnt anything from this pandemic so far? About appreciating essential workers, also known as the folks that keep the gears of our society turning? The retail assistants, cooks, factory workers, food production workers, cleaners that never got to work from home? What was all that clapping and cheering for during the circuit breaker then?
Stealing is wrong. It’s a bad idea, especially when what you’re planning to pilfer is marked. You will get caught and end up in a worse situation than you were in before. There are only 150,000 of those vouchers and they all have serial numbers. Plus, mailboxes below HDB blocks all have cameras around them. CCTV cameras are everywhere in Singapore, multiplying rapidly like the white-vented mynah. But that ignores the question of why somebody would do something so foolish. Why anyone would be that desperate.
The answer is probably connected, in my view anyway, to why McDonald’s still pays some people $6 per hour. It’s probably intertwined with why a place in Bukit Timah is offering to pay full-time housekeepers $1,200 a month. Come to think of it, it’s also probably linked to why packers in the warehousing industry earn up to $1,000, according to a report by Kelly Services.
I mean, it’s because they can. It’s because minimum wage isn’t a thing. It’s because a living wage isn’t a guaranteed thing in this day and age in 2020 here in Singapore. If you can even call $1,300 a month a living wage.
What’s also worth taking a look is the mental health aspect of the grocery voucher thefts. Which is, are the people doing it even okay? Crime is not about knowing that something is wrong, therefore it shouldn’t be done. Crime is about weighing risks and rewards. When the risk of being caught is 99.99%, why would anyone in their right mind do it?
What do you think?
By the way, there is a grocery voucher hotline, which is 1800-2222-888. You can call the number if you need your vouchers voided because you suspect they’ve been stolen. They will then be replaced and mailed to you.