Will Confucian Values Help or Hinder the Crisis of Elder Care in Modern Singapore?


The unique mix of modern Western and traditional Confucian values in Singapore presents young people with contradictory views on duties to aging parents. It remains to be seen whether the changing demands of modern life will result in new generations giving up Confucian family ethics or whether the Confucian dynamic will find a way to adapt to the new pressures. It is the opinion of this author that the Confucian family structure has mixed potential for the growing crisis of elder care. Alone, both Confucian traditions and typical Western institutional approaches toward elder care fall short of what is necessary for intergenerational social justice, yet a hybrid of the two has great potential for the growing aging crisis. To demonstrate this, I first give a brief account of the history of filial piety in Confucianism as well as the social environment from which it originated. Then I turn my attention to the present issues of an aging population and elder care that face much of the developed world in the twenty-first century. Finally, I show how adherence to Confucian filial traditions can both help to address many of these issues and how it can potentially leave unjust gaps in elder care. Ultimately, I conclude that the crisis of elder care may be best dealt with through a hybrid of Confucian values and Western approaches.

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Muyskens, K. Will Confucian Values Help or Hinder the Crisis of Elder Care in Modern Singapore?. ABR 12, 117–134 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-020-00123-5

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  • Filial piety
  • Elder care
  • Singapore
  • Social justice