Work-life balance, preserving the Singaporean core, and the aspirations of younger workers - these were some topics raised on Tuesday night in the first of a series of closed-door dialogues between the Government and professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
At The Arts House, some 50 PMETs - from architects to nurses - shared their views with Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, and Dr Amy Khor, chairman of government feedback unit Reach.
Both officeholders said the session was helpful, but noted that this was just the beginning. Said Dr Yaacob: "We have agreed that we will take back some of these issues to the various ministries. yet at the same time in the subsequent discussions, the objective of Reach is to have a lot more focused discussion with the subsequent PMET groups."
Dr Khor believed that "because of the diverse experience and knowledge of our PMETs, they will be able to give us valuable feedback".
Future discussions will be targeted at specific PMET sectors or professions, such as medicine, law and education. Reach will hold at least one session every quarter, or more frequently if needed.
One participant who spoke on work-life balance was Ms Jael Chng, 35. As head of the social division at Halogen Foundation, a non-profit organisation for youth leadership development, she noticed many young PMETs expected "a certain work-life balance" and they might face competition from non-Singaporeans who were more willing to put in long hours.
"Is it possible to really have a work-life balance in light of these global pressures? That's a question I wanted to raise for discussion," she said. She added that she was not looking for a ready answer but hoped to spark conversation instead.
Similar concerns were raised by Dr Audrey Tsui, 62, a visiting professor at National University of Singapore Business School, who thought it was important for young PMETs to be aware of opportunities and competition in the region.
"It is quite urgent that we should talk and plan, to discuss a major national agenda rather than looking at day-to-day issues," she said.