Forum: Empower lower-income to improve job prospects

It is heartening to see conversations about how Singaporeans can do more to uplift the vulnerable in our community to meet their aspirations.

Singapore, like other societies, has its fair share of underprivileged families. However, I caution against excessive intervention that may lead to an unintended outcome.

The National University of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy recently published a study on the minimum income standards households in Singapore need to achieve for a basic standard of living today.

In discussing the matter, academics identified two options to address the gap between the median income and minimum income standards - increasing state funding for public services (healthcare and education were cited) and improving wage intervention schemes.

While I agree that some assistance is required to help the vulnerable financially, public health and education are already among the largest areas of national spending in Singapore.

A sustainable way forward, instead, is for us to help the vulnerable succeed. Increasing subsidies for public services may not necessarily achieve that objective. We must empower the vulnerable to strive for a better life for themselves and their families.

In conjunction with the heavily subsidised public services, the Government must enable individuals to unlock opportunities to improve their employment prospects and income. This is already done through the heavily subsidised industry-related training programmes.

Every person can also contribute and play his part to improve the lives of the vulnerable. This can be done by raising awareness about the needs of the vulnerable, or volunteering as a career coach or mentor for the underprivileged, for instance.

Ultimately, we can move the needle by cultivating a more caring society.

Jason Tan

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