Slowing economy, job security top concerns for Singaporeans in pre-Budget feedback exercise

Office workers out on their lunch break at Raffles Place.
Office workers out on their lunch break at Raffles Place. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The slowing economy and its impact on the job market are the top concerns for Singaporeans, government feedback agency Reach said on Sunday (March 20).

Many are also aware that skills upgrading are important for Singaporeans to stay relevant in a changing economy, Reach added.

These findings made up a third of the feedback received in the annual feedback exercise organised by Reach and the Ministry of Finance, in preparation for Budget 2016, which will be presented on Thursday (March 24) at 3.30pm.

The exercise, which ran from Feb 1 to 26 via Reach's online platforms and face-to-face engagement sessions, garnered 3,600 public inputs.

About 86 per cent of the feedback was received through face-to-face platforms, while the rest were gathered from online channels, Reach said in a press release on Sunday.

 
 

Reach chairman Sam Tan, who is also the Minister of State for Manpower and in the Prime Minister's Office, said it was encouraging to see Singaporeans coming forward with their views and playing their part in shaping national Budget and policies.

"In particular, the majority of our feedback (86 per cent) came through face-to-face engagement and this is a good sign that Singaporeans want to connect and engage directly with Government on issues close to their hearts," Mr Tan added.

"Effective communication between citizens and policy makers is essential in building confidence in governance. We hear Singaporeans' concerns about the slowing down of the economy, employability as well as the lack of job security.

"The Government will continue to equip Singaporeans with the right skills to stay relevant in a fast changing world, so that they can secure better jobs and better pay," he said.

A look at some of the feedback contributed:

Economy and Employment

The impact of the economy on jobs

  • People wanted to know more about government measures to stabilise the economy
  • They shared concerns on whether there would be job security, both for the young and old, in the future
  • Mid-career workers called for schemes to help them cope financially, re-skill and re-enter the workforce in the event of a crossover to an unrelated sector
  • Some called for more stable employment conditions, especially for those wanting to work beyond the retirement age

Growing the economy through technology and innovation

  • Contributors noted the lack of impetus by companies to adopt new technologies due to cost
  • SME owners asked for more help to tide them over the economic slowdown and restructuring efforts
  • There were suggestions for the Government to consider technology and innovation as evaluation criteria in tenders to encourage businesses to innovate

Tax incentives to boost the economy

  • Proposed a tax-free first year for new start-ups, as well as tax reliefs to help SMEs cope with the current challenging conditions
  • There were suggestions for tax rebates to incentivise companies to hire locals
  • Some called for the lowering of GST, property and fuel tax

Skills training and lifelong learning

  • Contributors were appreciative of the SkillsFuture initiative and called for more to be done to raise awareness and usage of the scheme
  • They asked for more regular top-ups to the SkillsFuture credit, and if students could be allowed to use the credit for school modules
  • They said workers should be allowed to claim SkillsFuture credit for company-initiated training to encourage employers to invest in staff training
  • Singaporeans highlighted need to equip future workforce by shifting from textbook based education to one focusing on applied learning
  • They also urged lesser focus on academic results
  • They proposed the streamlining of the education system to allow Singaporeans to enter workforce or venture into business start-ups at an earlier age

Other issues

  • Topic of volunteerism gained substantial interest among students
  • To facilitate the spirit of volunteerism, the contributors suggested increasing the number of youth volunteer programmes
  • There were suggestions to invite foreigners living in Singapore to participate in volunteer activities so as to aid social integration
  • They called for social assistance to look beyond financial aid and to instead equip vulnerable groups with the necessary support to be self-reliant
  • They called for greater outreach and communication efforts to raise awareness of the avenues of help available