Saturday 28 October 2023

Forward SG report unveils social support plans, lays out mindset shifts needed amid changing times

Moves to ensure basic needs of Singaporeans are met and social compact is refreshed
By Goh Yan Han, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2023

A road map towards a more equitable and thriving Singapore has been put forth by the fourth-generation (4G) leadership, fleshing out the moves the Republic will make in the coming years to stay cohesive amid a time of change.

These include a greater helping hand for groups such as the less well-off, mid-career workers and seniors, through means such as additional financial support and improved infrastructure.

And there will be more done to ensure that Singaporeans’ basic needs at every life stage will be met, such as in education, retirement, healthcare and housing.

These moves come as Singapore has reached a key inflection point where there will be more disruptions, workplace churn and impact on people’s lives, and the Government recognises that more must be done to provide assurance for the people, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong at a press conference to launch the Forward Singapore report.

The 180-page report unveiled on Friday also articulated the mindset shifts required for Singapore to achieve the goals set out, such as for wider definitions of success and a stronger sense of collective responsibility towards one another.

It will not be possible for the Government alone to do everything through policy changes, nor is it possible for any individual to succeed on his or her own efforts alone,” DPM Wong said later at the launch of the Forward Singapore Festival, where the public can learn more about the report’s initiatives.

Instead, it will be up to everyone, including employers, community groups, families and individuals, to keep the Singapore miracle going, he added.

The report caps off a nationwide engagement exercise headed by Mr Wong that has involved more than 200,000 Singaporeans since it kicked off in June 2022.

The exercise sought to refresh Singapore’s social compact – the glue that holds society together – given the challenges facing the island, which range from a more fraught external environment to a rapidly ageing population to greater job insecurity due to rapid technological change.

One key move the 4G team intends to make to take the country forward is to create more opportunities for all Singaporeans to chart their own paths in life. This includes increasing salaries and respect for a wider range of vocations, better social support for those who face career hurdles, and nudging those who succeed to give back to society.

On the jobs and education front, the report unveiled plans to provide a “substantial top-up” of SkillsFuture Credit, as well as a “significant package” to help mature and mid-career workers reskill and upskill.

Institute of Technical Education graduates will get support to upgrade their skills early in their work life to close wage gaps, while more will be done to recognise those in jobs involving “hands” or “heart”, such as electricians and nurses.

“If society is more supportive of individuals pursuing these careers, we can create a virtuous cycle, where society in turn benefits from better and more reliable services,” it said.

Among efforts to help ageing seniors is the nationwide expansion of a pilot announced in March that will result in wider footpaths and longer green-man timings at traffic crossings.

Programmes that support retirement adequacy for those with lower incomes, such as the Silver Support Scheme and the Matched Retirement Savings Scheme, will be updated.

Young parents will also get more help, as the report recognised a need to better support families.

This includes a commitment to studying the feasibility of increasing paid parental leave, and to increase centre-based infantcare places by 70 per cent – or 9,000 spots – by 2030.

On the timeline to implement these changes, Mr Wong said the 4G team will prioritise issues that are more salient and of greater concern for Singaporeans. For instance, policy shifts have already been made or announced in the areas of housing and retirement. These include changing the housing classification system to the Standard, Plus and Prime model, and the $7 billion Majulah Package to help citizens aged 50 and over, that were announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally in August.

Other items, where specific recommendations have been set out, will be implemented in Budget 2024 and over the coming year, said Mr Wong.

Also at the press conference on Friday were other ministers including Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, and Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

The Forward Singapore report took in people’s ideas for the country’s future, which were contributed at 275 dialogue sessions, as well as through surveys and roadshows. It noted that one topic that constantly emerged at discussions was how the idea of a “good life” had evolved, especially among the younger generation who desire meaning and purpose in life, besides a good salary. The Singapore Dream, which used to be measured by the five Cs of condominium, car, cash, credit card and country club, had fallen out of favour, but there was still a tendency for society to measure success by old yardsticks such as the size of one’s pay cheque or home, the report noted.

Mr Wong said Singaporeans today still want a good life, but it is clear from the engagements that the Singapore Dream has evolved to be about more than just material success. “It’s also about fulfilment, meaning, and purpose in what we do,” he said.

“That’s why I firmly believe the refreshed Singapore Dream is less about I, me, and mine; it’s more about we, us, and ours. It’s recognising that we are not left to fend for ourselves; but that we are all in this together.”

Besides encouraging Singaporeans to tap the range of existing programmes to give back to society, a new Singapore Government Partnerships Office will be set up for agencies to work more closely with citizens.

In sum, the report represents a vision to guide the next bound of development for the Republic, where various groups come together to build a better Singapore, it said.

Mr Wong said: “We have a full agenda ahead of us, and we look forward to working with all Singaporeans to write our next chapter of the Singapore Story,” he said.

Here’s what Forward Singapore means for you
By Goh Yan Han, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2023

The fourth-generation leadership has unveiled a national strategy for a more vibrant and inclusive Singapore.

The 180-page Forward Singapore report is the result of dialogues and engagement sessions over 16 months, and includes both policy moves to assure Singaporeans that their basic needs will be met, and efforts to spur mindset change.

Here’s what you should know if you are a:

  • The aim is for more to enter secondary schools through Direct School Admission, up from about 10 per cent now
  • Adaptive learning technologies and artificial intelligence to be explored to help tailor curricula to individual needs
  • Streaming to be abolished to cater to diverse needs and abilities in different subjects, rather than focus on overall academic ability
  • Youth panels launched in May 2023 to give young people a greater say in policymaking

Technical and community care worker
  • Financial support for younger Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates to get a diploma
  • ITE graduates may receive Central Provident Fund top-ups to help them purchase homes or save for retirement
  • More recognition for skilled trades and jobs involving “hands” or “heart” jobs, via training and career pathways that lead to higher incomes
  • Continued regular reviews of existing schemes targeting lower-wage workers

Mid-career worker
  • A further, substantial top-up of the SkillsFuture Credit for these workers
  • Training allowances to be given when they take time-off for full-time, sustained training
  • New support scheme for involuntarily unemployed job seekers, including financial support for those actively searching for a job

  • Increase in centre-based infant care places by 70 per cent – or 9,000 spots – by 2030
  • Affordable, safe and reliable childminding services to be introduced
  • Feasibility of more paid parental leave to be studied
  • Under the new ComLink+ scheme, ComLink officers will work with each family to co-develop customised action plans that are more tailored to each family’s needs

  • Extra support to defray out-of-pocket costs for early intervention services, special education schools and special student care centres for families with children who need more help
  • An ecosystem of support for caregivers to be created and access improved to available resources, such as through caregiver support groups
  • Suggestions to better support working caregivers through measures such as caregiver leave and flexible work arrangements to be studied
Person with disability
  • Installation of 24/7 on-demand audible traffic signals at 325 pedestrian crossings by end 2024
  • New course to equip general practitioners to care for those with intellectual disabilities

Senior citizen
  • Better retirement adequacy through enhancements to programmes such as the Silver Support Scheme and Matched Retirement Savings Scheme, and raising the CPF Enhanced Retirement Sum
  • New Age Well SG national programme to help seniors to age gracefully in the community. This includes having more active ageing centres, such that eight in 10 seniors will live close to one by 2025
  • Expanded Friendly Streets initiative to cover all towns, which will have more pedestrian crossings and wider and more accessible footpaths, among other things
  • More senior care centres and home care options
  • More senior-friendly fittings to choose from for Housing Board flats
  • New Singapore Government Partnerships Office to facilitate interactions between citizens and government agencies
  • New programme to better link donors to local communities and less privileged groups over a sustained period
  • Continued efforts to be made to expand spaces for more interactions between different groups, such as collaborations between self-help groups

Path ahead will not be a top-down approach: DPM Wong on Forward SG
By Goh Yan Han, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2023

As he laid out plans for Singapore’s way forward, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong stressed that the Government would not take a top-down approach but consult Singaporeans to find solutions.

He was responding to a question at a press conference on the Forward Singapore report, on what he saw as the biggest departures from the way things are being done now, in the new way forward.

“This is more than just an engagement exercise. It’s really a partnership. And that partnership is between Government, people, community groups, employers, businesses. It encompasses our tripartite partnership, but it’s really a whole-of-Singapore partnership,” said Mr Wong, who led the People’s Action Party’s fourth-generation (4G) team in the nationwide engagement exercise.

The 180-page Forward Singapore report unveiled on Friday was the culmination of about 16 months of dialogue.

The report calls for a greater helping hand for groups such as the less well-off, mid-career workers and seniors, through means like additional financial support and improved infrastructure.

It also articulated the mindset shifts required for Singapore to achieve the goals set out, such as for wider definitions of success and a stronger sense of collective responsibility towards one another.

On how the 4G team will prioritise the various moves laid out in the report, Mr Wong said it will look at issues that are more salient and of greater concern to Singaporeans, such as housing and retirement, where changes in policy have already been announced.

It is based on the needs on the ground, the concerns Singaporeans have, and the time needed to introduce and implement changes, he said.

“Most that we have announced are the ones that we have already started prioritising and are implementing. There are other moves that we are discussing and deliberating over. They will take some time. The next milestone will be Budget 2024, where we will be able to flesh out in greater detail some of the other moves,” he added.

He cited two initiatives that will be further elaborated on before the year ends: Age Well SG, a national programme to help seniors age comfortably in place, and ComLink+, which is an enhancement to the existing ComLink programme that supports low-income families living in rental flats.

Another initiative that will see more details in the coming months is the support scheme for the involuntarily unemployed, which will be raised in Budget 2024.

As Singapore enters a phase where more disruptions will impact people’s lives, the Government will have to do more for Singaporeans and provide more assurances, said Mr Wong.

This will require a lot more resources, he noted.

“And so we have to design our policies and programmes carefully, and in a responsible manner. But we think this additional spending will be necessary,” he added.

Mr Wong noted that there is a full agenda of work ahead for the 4G team, the Government and Singapore, who will all have to work together.

“The road ahead will not be easy, but we can draw confidence from what we have been through in Singapore’s history and also from the three years of tackling Covid-19 together,” he added.

“The way in which we have undertaken this Forward Singapore exercise also reflects very much the desire of everyone in the team in how we want to engage and work with Singaporeans.

“It is an approach where we will continue to listen and engage widely and work closely with partners,” he said.

On how the 4G team worked together on the report, Mr Wong said they met as a work group monthly and had very intense discussions.

Beyond the work group meetings, they also met separately to hold deep-dive sessions on specific policies involving various ministries.

“The whole experience, building on top of what we had gone through in the last three years of Covid-19, has really enabled the team to come together very well. We have a much better understanding of each other’s strengths, how we can complement one another as a team and how the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts,” Mr Wong said.

Asked when he would seek a fresh mandate to implement the agenda laid out in the report, he said: “We will announce and you will know all that is to be known in due course.”

Singapore moves to ensure respect for every job and cement lifelong learning: Forward SG report
By Tay Hong Yi, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2023

The wage gap between skilled tradesmen and knowledge-based workers will be narrowed through structured training and career planning, while Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates will get help to upgrade their skills early in their careers.

These are among efforts to ensure that every job in Singapore is respected and fairly rewarded while cementing a culture of lifelong learning beyond grades, laid out in the broad plans for the areas of jobs and education in the Forward Singapore report released on Friday.

The Government will work with the National Trades Union Congress, industry associations and institutes of higher learning to put these plans in place, the report said. Examples of workers who stand to gain from the wage boost are plumbers, electricians and those working in the healthcare and aged-care sectors.

The report did not specify the healthcare and aged-care workers experiencing wage gaps, but latest Manpower Ministry figures released in July found that nursing aides and healthcare assistants earn a median gross salary of less than $3,000 a month – as do plumbers and electricians.

This is below the median gross monthly salary of $4,500 for full-time employed residents as at June 2022.

“We must do more to tilt the scales and narrow the wage gaps across professions,” the report said.

It said of skilled workers: “It takes time to hone these skills, and those who develop a deep mastery should be able to earn a good living... If society is more supportive of individuals pursuing these careers, we can create a virtuous cycle, where society in turn benefits from better and more reliable services.”

The support for ITE graduates comes amid widening gaps in starting salaries between these graduates and those from polytechnics and autonomous universities. “We are especially concerned about the growing gaps,” the report said.

These salary gaps can be narrowed over time if ITE graduates upgrade and refresh their skills, such as through getting a diploma or even more qualifications in their working years. Skills upgrading improves career prospects and salaries, and it is a case of the earlier, the better, the report noted.

“We will study how we can help younger ITE upgraders defray the costs of obtaining a diploma. When they graduate, we can also top up their Central Provident Fund to give them a head start to purchase a home or save for their retirement,” the report said.

Besides ITE graduates, Singaporeans who already hold a publicly funded diploma or higher qualification will also get help with obtaining another publicly funded diploma.

For the wider workforce, more significant investments will be made to support mature mid-career Singaporeans in pursuing substantive reskilling and upskilling.

Workers will also receive a “further, substantial top-up” of the SkillsFuture Credit, the report said.

A one-off top-up of $500 was given in 2020 to every Singaporean aged 25 and above, and another $500 specifically to Singaporeans aged 40 to 60 to improve access to career transition programmes.

Financial support is set to be further bolstered for mature mid-career Singaporeans, in the form of training allowances when they take time off for full-time training over a longer period.

Local talent aspiring to top regional or global roles will also receive more support in pursuing the needed overseas exposure for such roles before returning home.

“Singaporeans with families who take up overseas roles often worry about their children’s education and how they can adjust when they come back. We will find ways to help their children integrate smoothly back into our schools,” the report noted.

In the report, the Government also reiterated its plans to continue broadening the definition of merit and creating more diverse pathways in education, such as through exploring the use of adaptive learning technologies and artificial intelligence.

Mr Shaifulazli Ghazali, 45, a training instructor at ST Engineering, welcomed the additional support for ITE graduates and skilled tradesmen.

The ITE graduate started his career in 1999 as an apprentice, gaining a Nitec in aircraft maintenance along the way. He noted that the profile of ITE graduates has changed and they now have higher career expectations.

He said ITE graduates during his time were “timid and quiet”, and never thought they would be in leadership or training positions.

“(In contrast), my younger colleagues and interns who graduated recently are confident, and school has prepared them well for industry. They know to ask about sponsorship for further studies and their career progression.”

At a press conference on Friday, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said participants at the Forward SG engagement sessions wanted a wider definition of career success.

“So we came to this conclusion that the idea of a good job should not just be limited to white-collar jobs,” he said.

He reiterated the Government’s focus on empowering individuals to chart their careers and investing in Singaporeans gaining overseas exposure. Other priorities include reducing wage gaps, providing financial support for involuntarily unemployed workers and ensuring a financially secure retirement for Singaporeans.

He emphasised that a meaningful shift towards fairer, more inclusive and more harmonious workplaces requires tripartism, which is the three-way partnership between the Government, employers and the labour movement.

At the same press conference, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said, about lifelong learning, that there must continue to be a diversity of pathways for people to realise their potential at different stages of life.

“We will have to embrace technology that allows our people to adapt their learning styles and learning speed according to their needs,” he said, adding that adult learners can look forward to “more accessible and affordable modules, and more personalised skills and career guidance”.

Low-income families will be empowered to uplift their lives: Forward SG report
By Theresa Tan, Senior Social Affairs Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2023

Low-income families with children will be empowered over the longer haul to improve their lives, as the Government shifts its approach in helping these families from providing social assistance to social empowerment.

For families with children living in highly subsidised Housing Board rental flats under the Community Link (ComLink) scheme, the Government will introduce additional measures that are tied to progress on plans tailored to help each family in three areas.

The Forward Singapore report released on Friday said the Government could provide higher and longer-term financial payouts to ComLink families, as long as they work towards longer-term goals – such as staying employed, saving up to buy their own homes or ensuring their children attend pre-school regularly.

During a press conference on Friday, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said these financial incentives serve to recognise and supplement families’ efforts in working towards improving their lives.

“We will ease their short-term resource pressures and support them for their long-term plans,” he said, adding that more details on a new approach called ComLink+ will be released in the coming weeks.

ComLink+ builds on the existing ComLink programme that started in 2019, where low-income families with children are given coordinated and comprehensive support for needs ranging from job assistance to their children’s development.

While Singapore has made progress in reducing income inequality, the Government wants to do more to boost social mobility, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Oct 19 when he first sketched the broad outlines of ComLink+.

This is to ensure that no family here gets trapped in a permanent underclass, he said, adding that there are early signs that social stratification is becoming more entrenched.

Mr Masagos said participants in the Forward Singapore conversations felt that the Government’s efforts to help the low-income must not “kill this motivation for them to be self-reliant and independent”.
Beneficiaries also said that maintaining their dignity is important, he said.

To help families achieve their goals, ComLink officers will be trained as family coaches to work more closely with each household.

The Forward SG report said the Government has been doing more to help disadvantaged and vulnerable groups over the years, and will continue to do so.

“At the same time, we have sought to ensure that government actions do not lead to a greater sense of dependency and entitlement,” it said. “Instead, we want government actions to complement and reinforce individual and family effort, as well as contributions from other stakeholders.”

Ms Khalisah Samsuri, head of Sengkang Family Service Centre, run by AMKFSC Community Services, said some low-income families face multiple stressors such as ill health and caregiving responsibilities.

Their circumstances and lower educational qualifications affect their job prospects and incomes. And they may not work in jobs that offer Central Provident Fund contributions or other staff benefits, so this further affects their ability to save up to buy their own homes, among other things, she said.

She said of the ComLink+ approach: “It takes some time for families to be stable and to truly break out of the poverty cycle. It is also a form of motivation and hope for them to strive towards financial stability and self-reliance within their own unique circumstances.”

Another of the Government’s plans is to encourage more lower-income families to send their children to pre-school by the age of three.

This is because the enrolment and attendance of children from such families at the ages of three to four tend to be lower than the national average, the report said.

Ms Khalisah said: “The families we work with usually have multiple struggles to juggle at any point of time, and hence may not be able to prioritise their children’s early development needs.”

Getting these children into pre-school from an early age is necessary to reduce the risk of their development lagging behind that of their peers when they enter Primary 1, said the report.

A Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) spokesman told The Straits Times: “As part of the Forward SG conversations, there was recognition that more must be done to make pre-schools more affordable and accessible for lower-income families, to give children a good start.”

Thus, the Government will give each child from all lower-income families the maximum amount of childcare subsidies for their households’ income tier.

The MSF spokesman added that childcare subsidies for lower-income families are currently means-tested so that households earning up to $6,000 a month can pay from as little as $3 to up to $115 a month for full-day childcare at a pre-school run by an anchor operator.

The spokesman said more details will be provided when they are ready.

In addition, some government-supported pre-schools will be given extra funding or manpower to better support the needs of children from lower-income families.

This will go towards engaging the parents more frequently to ensure that they take their children to school regularly, and helping children with learning needs to keep up with their peers, among other things.

Mr Masagos said the Government is committed to making Singapore a nation where people with disabilities and their families can participate and contribute fully. Plans are outlined in the Enabling Masterplan 2030, which sets out “the vision for Singapore as an inclusive society in 2030”.

Stronger support for people with disabilities includes areas of lifelong learning, employment and living in the community rather than in institutions, he said, as well as participating in social activities.
Support for families

The report also noted plans to help families in general balance caregiving with career aspirations.

To support parents who may not have other care arrangements, the Government will increase the number of infantcare places at childcare centres by about 70 per cent, which amounts to an additional 9,000 spots by 2030.

It will also work with service providers to introduce “affordable, safe and reliable” childminding services as another option for families looking for infantcare services.

Such childminding services are not widely available now and can be costly, the report said.

The MSF spokesman told ST that several private companies are now providing childminding services. There are also individuals who offer more informal and ad hoc care for infants, typically in the childminder’s home.

The spokesman said the ministry will provide more details when they are ready.

The report noted that the Government will study the feasibility of further increasing paid parental leave while managing the impact of longer leave on business costs and operations.

On Friday, Mr Wong said that people have asked for more parental leave and more caregiving leave. But it is not so straightforward to implement, considering the impact on businesses, he said.

He said: “Nevertheless, we will study, we will engage different groups and we will consider, perhaps down the road at a time when it’s more conducive. Some of these ideas may materialise.”

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah said a mindset change among employers and the community to bring about more flexible work arrangements is needed, for Singaporeans to better balance work and raising a family.

“It will not be possible to keep mandating more and more of this type of leave, and more and more of that type of leave,” she said. “But if every sector looks to see how you can make work arrangements more flexible so that parents can take time off, that will make a huge difference.”

More active ageing centres, boost to retirement schemes for seniors: Forward SG report
By Syarafana Shafeeq, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2023

Older Singaporeans will get more help under a new programme that will see more active ageing centres and senior-friendly infrastructure built in neighbourhoods across Singapore.

Existing measures to help seniors meet basic financial needs for retirement – such as the Workfare Income Supplement scheme, Silver Support Scheme and Matched Retirement Savings Scheme – will also get a boost.

In the Forward Singapore report released on Friday, the Government said that although it has been expanding the nation’s aged care infrastructure by building more nursing homes and senior care centres, as well as increasing the capacity of home care services, this is not enough.

“We need more focused efforts to reduce the risk of social isolation of seniors. This is one of the most powerful ways to enable seniors to spend more of their remaining life in good health,” the report said.

“By living among their family, friends and neighbours and participating in social activities and physical exercises, seniors can delay frailty and deterioration of health.”

At present, roughly one in five Singaporeans is aged 65 and older. This proportion will go up to one in four by 2030.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung acknowledged that many seniors will be most concerned with immediate issues such as healthcare costs.

While these are under review, the Government must also take a longer-term view, he said.

He added that social isolation is the biggest enemy of senior citizens and determines their well-being in a “very profound way”.

“If we focus only on immediate problems, we are firefighting every day,” Mr Ong added in Mandarin, using a Chinese idiom that alludes to “the fire burning one’s eyebrows” to describe the pressing issues that seniors currently face.

“But how are we going to prevent fires from breaking out?”

The new programme, called Age Well SG, focuses on preventive care through measures that keep seniors active and social, allowing them to go about their daily activities with greater ease.

One goal is for eight in 10 seniors to have access to activities, such as at active ageing centres near their homes, by 2025. These activities include communal meals and exercise programmes.

To achieve this, volunteers will reach out to seniors near each centre, especially those who live alone.

More senior care centres, which provide custodial day care and rehabilitation services, will be built, alongside more home care options for those who need more help.

The Government aims to improve care coordination by having one provider coordinate a bundle of key services in each region. This ensures seniors have a single touchpoint for their care needs.

Changes to the physical environment will make for safer and more pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods. For one thing, all towns will have features like more pedestrian crossings, wider and more accessible footpaths, and traffic-calming measures. In addition, traffic lights will be programmed to reduce the time it takes to activate the green man and increase the duration of crossing time.

These changes are part of the Friendly Streets initiative, which was launched for trials by the Land Transport Authority earlier in the year in five places, including Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh.

Neighbourhoods and existing homes will be fitted with more senior-friendly amenities and features so that seniors can go about their daily activities more easily and safely. These include revamped linkways, more shelters, barrier-free access ramps and rest points, and colourful signs to help older folk find their way home.

Fitness trails, exercise machines and therapeutic gardens will be installed in more estates to help seniors stay active.

In addition, an improved version of the Enhancement for Active Seniors programme will offer a wider variety of senior-friendly fittings for HDB flats. The existing programme offers grab bars, single-step ramps at entrances and within flats, and slip-resistant treatment for toilet floors.

More senior-friendly housing options will also be made available. These include community care apartments, an assisted living public housing option that gives seniors access to care services, social activities and amenities.

The apartments allow seniors to stay in neighbourhoods they are already familiar with, the report said.

The Government will work with the private sector to offer alternatives such as private assisted living facilities.

Finally, existing schemes to help seniors meet basic retirement needs will be enhanced.

For those with lower incomes, the Workfare Income Supplement scheme will be reviewed and updated to help them build up their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings and achieve their basic retirement needs.

The Silver Support Scheme will also be enhanced to support those with less to retire on.

At present, those with higher incomes can set aside more in their CPF Retirement Account to get higher retirement payouts, up to a cap known as the Enhanced Retirement Sum.

This cap will be raised for those who would like to put more into their accounts for even higher future payouts.

The Matched Retirement Savings Scheme, which provides a dollar-for-dollar matching CPF grant of up to $600 per year for cash top-ups to eligible seniors with lower retirement savings, will get a boost.

In addition, the Majulah Package for Singaporeans in their 50s and early 60s will see this group get a one-time Retirement Savings Bonus if their CPF savings fall below the Basic Retirement Sum.

They will also get a one-time MediSave Bonus to put them in a better position to take care of their future healthcare needs.

New Singapore Government Partnerships Office for Singaporeans to partner the Government and give ideas
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Oct 2023

To spur civic participation, a new office will be set up to create more space for Singaporeans to work with the Government.

The Singapore Government Partnerships Office, one of the recommendations of the Forward Singapore report, will lead national efforts to engage citizens who want to contribute, by facilitating interactions between them and relevant government agencies.

The office is part of a broader shift to empower people to take individual and collective actions, in the hope that building a shared future will foster unity.

“We recognise that there are some areas where it may be better for the Government to step back and allow more space for citizen participation,” said the report.

“We will therefore introduce new ways to promote civic participation. We will also support more ground-up efforts by Singaporeans to shape and improve their communities.”

The Government will actively seek input and work closely with all stakeholders and partners, said the report prepared by the fourth-generation political leaders led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.

Besides creating more avenues for civic participation and ground-up efforts, the report also sketched out ways to nurture a stronger culture of giving and for people to support their fellow Singaporeans.

The recommendations follow the 16-month-long Forward Singapore exercise that saw more than 200,000 Singaporeans contribute their suggestions.

At a press conference on Friday, Mr Wong said: “This is more than just an engagement exercise. It’s really a partnership effort... between Government, people, community groups, employers, businesses, (it) encompasses our tripartite partnership.

“It’s really a whole-of-Singapore partnership, and that’s the only way that we can implement these big moves and these big shifts together.”

Ultimately, the aim is to build a vibrant, thriving and resilient society where the broad middle enjoys progress, the vulnerable receive care, and the better-off do their part to improve the lives of fellow citizens, said the report.

“We ask that Singaporeans step forward to give back to our society, especially those who have done well and benefited from the system,” it added.

This could be through financial donations, contributing knowledge, or working with community organisations.

To this end, a new programme will be introduced to better connect donors to local communities and channel donations to where they are needed over a sustained period.

This will be done in collaboration with the Community Foundation of Singapore and Community Chest.

For example, a donor could support the educational needs of children from several lower-income families not just financially, but also in the areas of mentorship, internship and job opportunities, to help build their social capital and networks.

Businesses can also do more for the wider community, said the report.

It held up business leaders-turned-philanthropists such as Hajjah Fatimah, who donated land to build the Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, Govindasamy Pillai who set up the Ramakrishna Mission charity, and Tan Tock Seng, who donated money towards the building of what became Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

To guide companies in designing business practices and operations that can benefit society, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre has set up the new Company of Good strategy, and 55 companies have adopted this corporate purpose framework.

Young people can give their views on policies through youth panels that were launched in May. These panels will look into financial security, careers and lifelong learning, digital well-being, and environment and sustainability.

Mr Wong said some of the top issues for youth that surfaced during the Forward SG exercise were jobs and career choices, mental wellness and sustainability.

“There was a very strong sense of wanting to give back and support others who are less fortunate,” he said, adding that a group of young people worked closely with the Ministry of Social and Family Development team to come up with recommendations to uplift lower-income families.

Another aspect of fostering unity involves strengthening multiracialism and the Singaporean identity, said the report, adding that the Government will do its part by continuing to expand spaces for more interactions between different groups.

More will be done to promote collaborations between the various self-help groups, and to encourage more Singaporeans to be involved in racial harmony programmes in the community, said the report.

It noted that sustained effort to sensitively manage the difficult issues on race and to create shared experiences through school, and community and national events, has allowed Singapore to enjoy several decades of racial and religious harmony.

“But we must have the humility to acknowledge that our multiracialism is still a work in progress,” it said.

Even as more avenues will be provided for people to contribute ideas, the report said, not all ideas can be accepted and, sometimes, there may be differing views on how to achieve an outcome.

In such cases, the Government will explain its considerations, and take the “practical and pragmatic” approach by looking at data and evidence and considering the circumstances and context before deciding on a way forward.

“Such differences are not so fundamental because our ends are the same, and it is a matter of working out the best approach to take,” said the report.

From Friday to Sunday, Singaporeans will be able to learn more about the initiatives in the report at the Forward Singapore Festival at Silver Garden – Silver Leaf at Gardens by the Bay. After this, the festival roadshow will make its way to various heartland locations until Jan 28, 2024.

There will be exhibition booths on the key policy shifts highlighted in the report, an interactive booth where people can create their own avatars to discover what the shared future holds, and a holographic booth where they can make pledges for Singapore.


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