Thursday, 18 June 2020

National Broadcast: SM Tharman Shanmugaratnam on A Stronger and More Cohesive Society

Singapore to strengthen social compact to keep society united
Tharman spells out steps to stave off social polarisation and despair in the face of crisis
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2020

Singapore cannot defy the global economic downturn. But it must "absolutely defy" the loss of social cohesion, the polarisation and the despair that are taking hold in many other countries, said Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages economies, he said Singapore must strengthen its social compact by helping those who have lost jobs to find work, by keeping social mobility alive and by assuring Singaporeans that help is at hand when they meet difficulties.

Mr Tharman, who is Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, also said mature workers would get special help in finding jobs so that no employer rejects them on account of their age.

Speaking yesterday from the Devan Nair Institute of Employment and Employability, in the fifth of six national broadcasts by ministers on Singapore's post coronavirus future, he said job losses and disrupted schooling have widened social divisions around the world.

He cautioned against thinking that Singapore is immune to these trends: "No society remains cohesive simply because it used to be."

The Government's first priority is to save jobs and help those laid off to return to work. This, he said, cannot be left to market forces.



Mr Tharman, who helms the new National Jobs Council that oversees efforts to help Singaporeans stay employable, said this is why the Government is working with companies, sector by sector, to take on Singaporeans through temporary assignments, attachments and traineeships.

"No amount of unemployment allowances can compensate for the demoralisation of being out of work for long," he said.

Special attention will be paid to workers in their 50s and 60s, and the Mid-Career Pathways programme will be scaled up so that they can prepare for more permanent jobs, he added. But this is a national effort that requires employers to change their thinking.

Mr Tharman said: "No Singaporean who is willing to learn should be 'too old' to hire. And no one who is willing to adapt should be viewed as 'overqualified'.

"Our workers will be able to build on their skills and experience, and we will have a more capable and motivated workforce, with a strong Singaporean core, that every employer can rely on."

He added that good schools are critical to social mobility, and Singapore must never become a society where social pedigree and connections count for more than ability and effort. "There is nothing natural or preordained about social mobility," he said, noting that successful countries have found this harder to sustain with time. "It therefore requires relentless government effort, quality interventions in schools and dedicated networks of community support to keep social mobility alive."

Hence, the Government is equalising opportunities when children are young, such as by expanding the Kidstart programme to help lower-income families. Plans are also afoot to equip all secondary school students with a personal laptop or tablet by next year, seven years ahead of the original target.



A strong spirit of solidarity is also important. Key to this, he said, is strengthening support for lower income Singaporeans at work.

He pointed out that cleaners, security officers and landscape workers have seen their wages increase by 30 per cent in real terms over the last five years under the Progressive Wage Model. The eventual goal is for every sector to have progressive wages, with a clear ladder of skills, better jobs and better wages for those with lower pay.

Those in short-term contract work should also have more stable jobs, better protection and the chance to progress in their careers, he said. "It may lead to a small rise in the cost of services that we all pay for. But it is a small price for us to pay for better jobs and income security for those who need it most, and a fair society."



He noted that the social compact is also about the "self-effort and selflessness" that must be strengthened in the country's culture.

"It is about the networks and initiatives that we saw spring up in this COVID-19 crisis... And it is about how we draw closer to each other, regardless of race, religion or social background. It is how we journey together. A forward-looking, spirited and more cohesive society."














National effort to help older workers find jobs: Tharman
Employers should rethink views on older workers, step up to give them opportunities
By Linette Lai, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2020

Employers who hire middle-aged and older Singaporeans will receive extra support from the Government, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.

A programme to open new pathways for mid-career job seekers will also be scaled up in the coming months. This will give them opportunities to work at companies and public sector agencies, and prepare for more permanent jobs, he added.

In a national broadcast on building a more cohesive society, Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, urged employers to rethink their views on hiring middle-aged and mature workers - and step up to give them opportunities.



Everyone benefits if it becomes the norm to hire from this group, he added, noting the labour force is much older today than it was in the late 1960s when the British announced their troop pullout, and in the mid-1980s when Singapore suffered a recession.

Less than 30 per cent of the labour force then was 40 years or older. Today, the proportion has doubled to 60 per cent, and many workers are 50 years or older.

This is the reason for the concerted effort now to help middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers, he added.

"This is, and must be, a national effort. And it needs new thinking among employers, to give middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers a fair chance to prove themselves," he said.

"Employers need to reorient their management philosophies, and their human resources and talent management practices."

Mr Tharman, who chairs the new National Jobs Council set up to help Singaporeans stay employable in a challenging economy, added: "No Singaporean who is willing to learn should be 'too old' to hire. And no one who is willing to adapt should be viewed as 'overqualified'. We will work closely with the business associations to bring all employers into this national effort."

The Manpower Ministry will also watch companies' hiring practices to ensure they comply with the Fair Consideration Framework, he added.

In the fifth of six national broadcasts on Singapore's post-coronavirus future, he said the Government's first priority is to save jobs and prevent people from being out of work for too long.

The country has faced conditions of high unemployment before, but today, it is in a much stronger position to address this challenge, he added.

Singapore's unemployment rate exceeded 6 per cent on two occasions - when the British began withdrawing their troops in the late 1960s and again, during the severe recession of the mid-1980s.

Today, its economy is more diversified, its people are far more skilled and investors have greater confidence in the country.



But its labour force is also much older now, Mr Tharman noted. And the older workers have had fewer educational opportunities than the younger generations, he said.

"But they are a hard-working and vigorous generation, who have accumulated valuable skills and experience over the years, and still have many good years ahead of them.

"We will spare no effort to help them carry on with their careers in the most productive jobs they can do, so that they can continue to provide for their families and contribute to Singapore."

Everyone is better off if it becomes the norm to hire middle-aged and older workers, he said.

"Our workers will be able to build on their skills and experience and we will have a more capable and motivated workforce, with a strong Singaporean core, that every employer can rely on."





SM THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM ON...


TACKLING UNEMPLOYMENT

The reality of the matter is that we face strong headwinds. As long as grave uncertainty hangs over the global economy, and trade and travel are down, new job openings in Singapore will very likely be fewer than job losses.

So, if we leave things to market forces, unemployment will rise significantly over the next year, or even beyond that, if COVID-19 remains a threat. We are therefore working with companies, sector by sector, to take on Singaporeans through temporary assignments, attachments and traineeships during this down period so they get real work opportunities and get paid, and pick up skills while waiting for permanent jobs to open up.



MIDDLE-AGED, MATURE WORKERS

No Singaporean who is willing to learn should be 'too old' to hire. And no one who is willing to adapt should be viewed as 'overqualified'. We will work closely with the business associations to bring all employers into this national effort.

If it becomes the norm to hire mid-career Singaporeans and train them for new jobs, everyone is better off. Our workers will be able to build on their skills and experience, and we will have a more capable and motivated workforce, with a strong Singaporean core, that every employer can rely on.



 




SOCIAL MOBILITY

We must never become a society where social pedigree and connections count for more than ability and effort.

However, there is nothing natural or pre-ordained about social mobility. Every successful country has, in fact, found that it gets more difficult to sustain this with time. Parents who themselves had higher education or who have become better off are investing more in their children, and moving them further ahead of the rest.

It therefore requires relentless government effort, quality interventions in schools and dedicated networks of community support to keep social mobility alive.


BUILDING A CULTURE OF SOLIDARITY

We must remain a society where self-effort is rewarded, and each one of us takes pride in achieving something in life. But we also need, more than we did in the earlier years, a strong spirit of selflessness and solidarity, looking out for the vulnerable and supporting each other. Not because we are obliged to do so, but because it makes us a better society together.

We have seen this solidarity in action in the COVID-19 crisis. Singaporeans from all walks of life have come forward to support those who were most affected by the crisis, including by serving on the front lines.










National Jobs Council moving 'full speed ahead'
Attachments and traineeships being secured to help Singaporeans get hired, as jobs cannot be left to market forces: Tharman
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2020

Unemployment will rise significantly over the next year and even beyond if the issue of jobs is left to market forces.

That is why the Government is working with the private sector to get Singaporeans hired through temporary assignments, attachments and traineeships now, said Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

This way, people can get real work opportunities and get paid. They can also pick up skills while waiting for permanent jobs to open up.

The reality, Mr Tharman said, is that Singapore now faces strong headwinds. As long as grave uncertainty hangs over the global economy and trade and travel remain disrupted, job losses here are likely to outweigh job openings.

"So, if we leave things to market forces, unemployment will rise significantly over the next year, or even beyond that if COVID-19 remains a threat," he added.

Singapore has been preparing for this but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for changes, Mr Tharman said. "When we talk of the jobs of the future, therefore, it is not some far-off or hypothetical possibility. The future begins now."

That is why the Government is investing heavily in reskilling and upskilling the majority of Singaporeans who still have jobs, and it has also expanded training opportunities through the Next Bound of SkillsFuture.

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies and chairman of the National Jobs Council, said: "The Government is heavily subsidising these opportunities. It gives people far greater benefit when the Government provides support this way.

"No amount of unemployment allowances can compensate for the demoralisation of being out of work for long," he added.

For a start, the public sector will bring forward hiring for future jobs in areas such as healthcare, early childhood development, education and social services. It will also step up recruitment in sectors that had earlier faced issues in getting enough Singaporeans to sign up.

Mr Tharman said the National Jobs Council is moving "full speed ahead", and will secure the 100,000 jobs and training places targeted by the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.



In his TV broadcast yesterday - the fifth of six speeches on Singapore's post-coronavirus future - Mr Tharman said the Government's first priority is to save jobs, and that this is not just an economic issue, but a social one.

He said: "We will do all we can to prevent people from being out of work for long, so they can stand on their own feet and retain their sense of dignity. Good jobs are also at the heart of our whole approach to building a cohesive society and tempering inequalities."

Technological advances and the digital revolution, Mr Tharman said, have transformed many jobs.

He urged Singaporeans to take on the challenge of learning new skills. "Everyone should have the courage to re-gear to stay on track, and make the effort to acquire new skills at regular points in your careers, possibly even learning whole new disciplines."





Better jobs for lower-wage workers may mean small rise in cost of services for Singaporeans: Tharman
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2020

In time, every sector in Singapore will have a progressive wage structure with a clear ladder of skills that will result in better jobs and improved wages for lower-paid workers, said Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday.

Lower-income Singaporeans in short-term contract work will also be provided with opportunities to get more stable jobs, better protection and the chance to progress in their careers, he added.

While such changes may lead to a small rise in the cost of services for Singaporeans, they can bring about meaningful and continuing improvements in pay and conditions for lower-income workers, he said.

"It is a small price for us to pay for better jobs and income security for those who need it most, and a fair society."



In the fifth of six national broadcasts on Singapore's post-coronavirus future, Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, pledged to provide greater support for lower-and middle-income Singaporeans, strengthen policy support for them, and build a fair and just society.

The social support schemes introduced recently to help Singaporeans hit by the coronavirus crisis are part of a "broader re-orientation" in Singapore's social policies that began well before the pandemic and will outlast it, he said.

These efforts have also been complemented by a spirit of solidarity that Singaporeans have demonstrated in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and which has to be sustained and strengthened even after the pandemic, he added.

"We must remain a society where self-effort is rewarded, and each one of us takes pride in achieving something in life.

"But we also need, more than we did in the earlier years, a strong spirit of selflessness and solidarity, looking out for the vulnerable, and supporting each other. Not because we are obliged to do so, but because it makes us a better society together."

Mr Tharman noted that over the years, the Government has increased subsidies for lower-and middle-income families in education, housing and healthcare, which includes the Community Health Assist Scheme that provides healthcare subsidies.

The Silver Support scheme, which gives quarterly payouts to eligible Singaporeans aged 65 and older, is also getting a boost to help poorer retirees.

Support for lower-income Singaporeans is also being strengthened, he said.

Through Workfare, which gives payouts to lower-paid workers, and the Special Employment Credit, which provide wage offsets, the Government pays older, lower-income workers as much as 40 per cent on top of the wages they get from their employers.



Progress in raising the income of Singapore's lowest-paid workers has also been made, and the country will continue to build on it, the minister said.

Through the adoption of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) - a wage ladder that specifies higher pay for workers as they upgrade their skills - cleaners, security officers and landscape workers have seen their real wages go up by 30 per cent in the last five years.

He said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo is also working actively with tripartite partners to bring in more industry associations and work out progressive wage schemes for various industries, as Singapore strives to extend a progressive wage structure to every sector.

"No one can tell what world will emerge when COVID-19 is over, or whether it has entered a long period of economic stagnation as many fear," said Mr Tharman.

"But we will do all we can to make ours a more cohesive society, and do it in ways that can be sustained into the next generation. And we must all do our utmost to avoid the rifts and fractures that we see developing in many other societies."










All secondary school students to get personal laptop or tablet for learning by 2021: Tharman
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2020

All secondary school students will receive a personal laptop or tablet for learning by next year - seven years ahead of the original target.

The recent move by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung to bring forward the plan is one of the ways the Government, schools and the community are working together to keep social mobility alive, and ensure every individual is afforded the opportunity to do well, regardless of his starting point, Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday.

Mr Tharman, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, said social mobility is an integral part of Singapore's identity, and is the reason Singapore has been able to transform its society since the 1960s.


"Generations of children from humble backgrounds have moved up in life, through education, and by working hard in their jobs and businesses.


"Even today, Singaporeans who grow up in lower-income families have a better chance of moving up the income ladder than those in most other advanced countries," he noted, as he spoke on social mobility during the fifth ministerial broadcast in a series of six.


Mr Tharman, however, cautioned that there is "nothing natural or pre-ordained about social mobility".


Every successful country has found that it gets more difficult to sustain this with time, and the gap widens when parents with higher education or who have become better off invest more in their children, moving them further ahead of the rest, he noted. "We must never become a society where social pedigree and connections count for more than ability and effort."


Mr Tharman said the Government and its partners have been working to equalise opportunities for Singaporeans.




In early childhood, it is expanding the KidStart programme to help lower-income families and their children in the earliest years, which are critical to their development.

Introduced in 2016, KidStart provides advice and support to families on various aspects of bringing up children, such as nutrition and parent-child interaction.


The pre-school profession has also been upgraded, and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development has been set up to raise standards in the industry. "So, whichever pre-school your child goes to, he or she will have a good start," said Mr Tharman.


During the circuit breaker period, schools also made great effort to help students from poorer homes and those at risk to ensure they did not fall behind.


The work does not stop there, he said. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has been allocating extra resources to schools for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They will be given even more support in the coming years, with the hiring of more teachers, allied educators, student welfare officers and teacher-counsellors, he added.

This will boost the efforts of those in schools that are supporting pupils who are doing less well in primary schools, as well as the efforts in the ministry's UPLIFT (Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce) programme.

In UPLIFT, schools and the community collaborate to support students from disadvantaged families.

The additional resources will also help students to go as far as they can through the full subject-based banding system in secondary schools, which allows students to take subjects at varying levels of difficulty based on their strengths.

"When you add up all we are doing, starting from the earliest years of childhood onward, we are making a determined effort to keep Singapore a place where every individual can do well, regardless of their starting points," said Mr Tharman.






Strengthening a compact of 'self-effort and selflessness'
The Straits Times, 18 Jun 2020

This is the transcript of Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's ministerial broadcast yesterday on 'a stronger and more cohesive society'. It is the fifth ministerial broadcast on life after COVID-19. The final broadcast is on Saturday by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.




My fellow Singaporeans,

In this fifth ministerial broadcast, I will talk about the challenges we face as a society, and how we must work together to strengthen our social compact in the years to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the stakes. The fall in incomes around the world is expected to be the most severe in the last 100 years. But this is not just an economic recession. It has the makings of a profound social crisis, in one country after another.

We are already seeing this happen elsewhere. It did not begin with the pandemic. Social divisions were already growing in these countries. But they are now getting even wider. Job and income losses have hit some groups much harder than others. Children without well-off parents are falling behind, with their schooling disrupted and little done to help them. All this is sharpening feelings of helplessness, and the sense that the system is stacked against those who are already disadvantaged. And it is bringing longstanding perceptions of racial injustice to a boiling point.

Singapore cannot defy the global economic downturn. But we must absolutely defy the loss of social cohesion, the polarisation, and the despair that is taking hold in many other countries. Never think these trends cannot take hold in Singapore. There are many societies which used to be cohesive, but are now fragmenting, both in the West and in Asia. No society remains cohesive simply because it used to be.

The economic dangers we now face compel us to fortify our society and reinforce the strengths that we have developed over many years.

STRENGTHENING OUR SOCIAL COMPACT

We will redouble efforts to strengthen our social compact. First, we will ensure everyone has full opportunity to do well for themselves, through education, skills and good jobs. Second, we will boost support for those who start life at a disadvantage, so that we keep social mobility alive in Singapore, and lessen inequalities over time.

And third, we must all play a role to strengthen our culture of solidarity, so we know we have each other to depend on, in good times and bad. Every individual must put in the effort to achieve his fullest potential. But we must also take responsibility collectively, to help people bounce back from life's inevitable setbacks, and make sure no Singaporean is left behind. We are doing this through government policies to help those with less, at every stage of life, as well as through citizen-led initiatives and communities of care that are growing in every neighbourhood. As PM (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) said in his opening broadcast, in Singapore, no one will be left to walk his journey alone.



TACKLING UNEMPLOYMENT

Our first priority today is to save jobs, and to help Singaporeans who do lose their jobs to bounce back into work. This is not just an economic issue, but a social priority. We will do all we can to prevent people from being out of work for long, so they can stand on their own feet and retain their sense of dignity. Good jobs are also at the heart of our whole approach to building a cohesive society and tempering inequalities.

The National Jobs Council is moving full speed ahead. We will secure the 100,000 jobs and training places targeted by the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package that DPM (Deputy Prime Minister) Heng Swee Keat introduced.

The reality of the matter is that we face strong headwinds. As long as grave uncertainty hangs over the global economy, and trade and travel are down, new job openings in Singapore will very likely be fewer than job losses. So if we leave things to market forces, unemployment will rise significantly over the next year, or even beyond that, if COVID-19 remains a threat.

We are, therefore, working with companies, sector by sector, to take on Singaporeans through temporary assignments, attachments and traineeships during this down period, so they get real work opportunities and get paid, and pick up skills while waiting for permanent jobs to open up. The Government is heavily subsidising these opportunities. It gives people far greater benefit when the Government provides support this way. No amount of unemployment allowances can compensate for the demoralisation of being out of work for long.

The public sector will also bring forward hiring for future jobs, in areas such as healthcare, early childhood development, education and social services. It will step up recruitment, especially in sectors which earlier had difficulty finding enough Singaporeans to fill up the positions.

We have faced conditions of high unemployment before, but we are in a much stronger position to address the challenge today. Twice before, unemployment rose well beyond 6 per cent - in the late 60s, when the British began pulling out their forces, and in the mid-80s, when we suffered a major recession. Our economy is much better diversified today. Our people are far more skilled. And the trust and confidence that investors have in Singapore is much stronger, as (Trade and Industry) Minister Chan Chun Sing explained in the last ministerial broadcast.

HELPING OUR MIDDLE-AGED AND MATURE WORKERS

However, our labour force is much older today than in the late 60s, when the British began pulling out, and in the mid-80s recession. In those times, less than 30 per cent of our labour force was 40 years or older. Today, the proportion is 60 per cent, double what it was before. And many of today's workers are, in fact, 50 years or older.

This is why we are making a concerted effort to help our middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers. Most of those in their 50s and 60s did not go beyond secondary school. They had much fewer educational opportunities than today's younger generation. But they are a hard-working and vigorous generation, who have accumulated valuable skills and experience over the years, and still have many good years ahead of them. We will spare no effort to help them carry on with their careers in the most productive jobs they can do, so that they can continue to provide for their families and contribute to Singapore.

The Government will give employers extra support when they hire middle-aged and older Singaporeans. We will also scale up the new Mid-Career Pathways programme in the months to come, so they get opportunities to work at companies and public sector agencies, and can prepare for more permanent jobs in future.

This is, and must be, a national effort. And it needs new thinking among employers, to give middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers a fair chance to prove themselves. Employers need to reorient their management philosophies, and their HR (human resources) and talent management practices.

No Singaporean who is willing to learn should be "too old" to hire. And no one who is willing to adapt should be viewed as "overqualified". We will work closely with the business associations to bring all employers into this national effort. MOM (Ministry of Manpower) will also watch companies' hiring practices to ensure they comply with the Fair Consideration Framework.

If it becomes the norm to hire mid-career Singaporeans and train them for new jobs, everyone is better off. Our workers will be able to build on their skills and experience, and we will have a more capable and motivated workforce, with a strong Singaporean core, that every employer can rely on.



THE FUTURE OF JOBS BEGINS NOW

We are also investing heavily in reskilling and upskilling the majority of Singaporeans who still have jobs. Many occupations are being transformed by the digital revolution and other technological advances. We have been preparing for this for several years.

But COVID-19 is fast-forwarding the changes. When we talk of the jobs of the future, therefore, it is not some far-off or hypothetical possibility. The future begins now.

That is why we have expanded training opportunities in every sector and every job, through the Next Bound of SkillsFuture, like here at e2i (Employment and Employability Institute).

Everyone should have the courage to re-gear to stay on track, and make the effort to acquire new skills at regular points in your careers, possibly even learning whole new disciplines. Please take on the challenge.

KEEPING SOCIAL MOBILITY ALIVE

These efforts will not only give Singaporeans good jobs, but also help with social mobility. When everyone keeps learning throughout life, they can advance through the skills and mastery they acquire, rather than grades earned long ago in school. We are progressively developing this meritocracy of life.

But good schools are critical to social mobility too.

Social mobility is what Singapore has been about, and how we have transformed our society since the 1960s. Generations of children from humble backgrounds have moved up in life, through education and by working hard in their jobs and businesses. Even today, Singaporeans who grow up in lower-income families have a better chance of moving up the income ladder than those in most other advanced countries.

We must never become a society where social pedigree and connections count for more than ability and effort.

However, there is nothing natural or pre-ordained about social mobility. Every successful country has, in fact, found that it gets more difficult to sustain this with time. Parents who themselves had higher education or who have become better off are investing more in their children, and moving them further ahead of the rest.

It therefore requires relentless government effort, quality interventions in schools, and dedicated networks of community support to keep social mobility alive.

We are investing a lot more into equalising opportunities when children are young. We are expanding KidStart, to help lower-income families and their children in the earliest years, which are critical to their development. And we have upgraded the pre-school profession, and set up the National Institute of Early Childhood Development to raise standards. So whichever pre-school your child goes to, he or she will have a good start.

We are also investing more in our schools, to make sure that every student who needs extra support will get it. During the recent circuit breaker, our teachers made great effort to help students from poorer homes and those at risk, to ensure they did not fall behind.

But it is also an ongoing, broader effort. MOE (Ministry of Education) has been allocating extra resources to schools for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. We will give them even more support in the coming years, by hiring more teachers, allied educators, student welfare officers and teacher-counsellors. They will strengthen the school teams that support students who are doing less well in primary schools, and our Uplift efforts to help those at risk. And they will help students to go as far as they can through the full subject-based banding system in secondary schools.

(Education) Minister Ong Ye Kung is also accelerating plans to equip all secondary school students with a personal laptop or tablet for learning. They will each have their own device by next year, seven years ahead of the original target.

When you add up all we are doing, starting from the earliest years of childhood, we are making a determined effort to keep Singapore a place where every individual can do well, regardless of their starting points.



BUILDING A STRONGER CULTURE OF SOLIDARITY

Finally, we must strengthen our culture of solidarity, and provide Singaporeans with greater assurance of assistance when they meet with difficulties in life.

We must remain a society where self-effort is rewarded, and each one of us takes pride in achieving something in life. But we also need, more than we did in the earlier years, a strong spirit of selflessness and solidarity, looking out for the vulnerable and supporting each other. Not because we are obliged to do so, but because it makes us a better society together.

We have seen this solidarity in action in the COVID-19 crisis. Singaporeans from all walks of life have come forward to support those who were most affected by the crisis, including by serving on the front lines.

These community efforts have complemented the Government's social support schemes to help Singaporeans through the crisis. They are schemes responding to today's crisis, but they are also part of a broader reorientation in our social policies, that began well before COVID-19 and will outlast it. We are working systematically to provide greater support for lower-and middle-income Singaporeans, and to build a fair and just society.

We will strengthen these policies in the coming years. No one can tell what world will emerge when COVID-19 is over, or whether it has entered a long period of economic stagnation as many fear. But we will do all we can to make ours a more cohesive society, and do it in ways that can be sustained into the next generation. And we must all do our utmost to avoid the rifts and fractures that we see developing in many other societies.

The Government has increased subsidies for lower-and middle-income families in education, housing and healthcare, including Chas (Community Health Assist Scheme). We are also boosting Silver Support, to help our poorer retirees.

But very importantly, we continue to strengthen support for our lower-income Singaporeans at work. Through Workfare and the Special Employment Credit, the Government pays as much as 40 per cent on top of the wages that employers pay older lower-income workers.

We are also making progress in uplifting our lowest-paid workers, and will go further. Through the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), our cleaners, security officers and landscape workers have seen their wages increase by 30 per cent in real terms over the last five years. That is not the end of it. Progressive wages are not a one-off, but a ladder for continuing improvement.

In time, we want every sector to have progressive wages, with this clear ladder of skills, better jobs, and better wages for those with lower pay. (Manpower) Minister Josephine Teo at MOM is working actively with the tripartite partners on this. They will bring in the industry associations to work out schemes that can be practically adopted in the different industries.

Likewise, we want to provide lower-income Singaporeans in short-term contract work with opportunities to get more stable jobs, better protection and the chance to progress in their careers.

These measures will bring meaningful and continuing improvements in pay and conditions for our lower-income workers. It may lead to a small rise in the cost of services that we all pay for. But it is a small price for us to pay for better jobs and income security for those who need it most, and a fair society.

OUR CONFIDENCE IN THE FUTURE

Ultimately, the greatest confidence we get in our future as Singaporeans comes from our social compact. Our social strategies are aimed at strengthening this compact that holds us together. But the compact is about all of us, and goes much deeper than government policies.

It is about the compact of self-effort and selflessness that we must strengthen in our culture. It is about the networks and initiatives that we saw spring up in this COVID-19 crisis. About the interest we take in each other, at workplaces and in the community, because we all make up the fabric of Singapore. About respecting every individual regardless of their job, and respecting their effort to overcome setbacks and make the best they can of life. And it is about how we draw closer to each other, regardless of race, religion or social background.

It is how we journey together. A forward-looking, spirited and more cohesive society.




Related
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: Overcoming the Crisis of a Generation

Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong: Living with COVID-19

Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean: Resilience in a Changing External Environment

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing: Making a Living in a COVID-19 World

Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam: A Stronger and More Cohesive Society

No comments:

Post a comment