SINGAPORE - For Singapore to be a truly uplifting society, the Government has to ensure opportunities for everyone throughout their life to upgrade, do better and be the best version of themselves, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.
This is what the country is working towards, he said in response to a question on what the Government views as unfinished business with regard to social mobility.
Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, said that to achieve this goal, the Government is investing in SkillsFuture, worker training, human capital, as well as a better system that would enable every worker to bounce back quickly from setbacks in life.
“(This) is something that we are thinking about, is something that I think we can do more of,” he said on Monday.
He was speaking at The Straits Times-The Business Times Budget roundtable discussion sponsored by UOB.
Panellist K. Thanaletchimi, who is vice-president of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and president of the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union, said the Government’s continuous support for workers, especially the investment in training, is crucial.
She added that individual Singaporean workers must also embrace change as the only constant and ensure they keep up with lifelong learning.
Another aspect of social mobility that Mr Wong spoke of was ensuring that lower-income families and their children avoid being trapped in a permanent underclass.
To do so involves thinking holistically about how to uplift them, in particular intervening by closing the gaps in the children’s early years, he said.
Programmes such as KidStart will help children from such families enrol in pre-school earlier and attend regularly.
Mr Wong also spoke of the need to ensure that seniors are properly taken care of, not just in the area of healthcare but also long-term care, such as how they can age in place with peace of mind. He raised questions of who will take care of them, and how their retirement security can be ensured as they get older.
“We are thinking about all of these different issues as part of our Forward Singapore exercise,” said Mr Wong, referring to the nationwide engagement exercise he launched in June 2022 that aims to conclude in the second half of 2023.
“We are deliberating very carefully about what policy changes might be needed, at the same time, getting very useful inputs and feedback from Singaporeans from diverse walks of life, and also from the NTUC as part of its Every Worker Matters conversations.”