What Singapore could face in 2030

Imagine a future where borrowers do not need banks, where technology has removed the need for middlemen and made old business models in Singapore obsolete.

Or imagine this nation plagued with environmental problems - heatwave, water stress and soaring food prices as crops fail across Asia - but then taking the lead in regional recovery efforts.

These are just some of the scenarios Singapore could face in 2030, according to a new research report by the CIPD, a professional body for human resources, and the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI).

The report included four scenarios of life in Singapore in 2030.

"The scenarios are not predictions but they do set out possible ways Singapore may develop in the future based on choices made today," said Dr Wilson Wong, head of Insight and Futures at CIPD.

He said the future is likely to see a combination of these scenarios.

The other two scenarios depict a future where businesses continue to rely on foreign employees, highlighting the importance of professional accreditation, and a Singapore faced with external security threats.

In response to future challenges, Dr Wong said leaders need to think long term. "Marginal issues today will take centre stage in future... environmental issues are not big on corporate agendas, but they are very big globally.

"Business should also invest in developing talent instead of taking 'ready-made' talent from somewhere else," he said.

Ms Wong Su-Yen, chief executive officer of HCLI, said that the four scenarios confirm the need for Singaporeans to be more adaptable and resilient. She highlighted the new Outward Bound Singapore campus mentioned in the Budget as something that would "build adventure and resilience" for the workforce of the future.

"Companies can also help by moving their talent around, giving them experience in uncomfortable new environments and across cultures," she said.

Dr Wong outlined steps such as increasing diversity in the workforce and supporting other ways of thinking to build resilience, as well as encouraging employees to be less risk-averse.

"Uncertainty will be the new norm," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline What Singapore could face in 2030. Subscribe