Covid-19 an opportunity for youth to define their generation, says Alvin Tan

The pandemic also presents a plethora of opportunities for youth. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE- Young people across the Asia-Pacific, including Singapore, are concerned that Covid-19 has affected their ability to get jobs, care for their parents and loved ones, and start a family.

But the pandemic also presents a plethora of opportunities for youth, said Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan on Monday (Nov 30).

Making the point at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation youth webinar, he added: "There are silver linings. In spite of the ravages towards the tourism and aviation industries, there are bright sparks and spots available in the biomedical sciences, technology, digitalisation and advanced manufacturing fields. These jobs are available, so let's not lose heart.

"This indeed is a crisis to the generation but it is also an opportunity for us to define what this generation is about in terms of our actions and voice."

Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said digitalisation provides tech-savvy youth "a platform like Lego" where they can build their own ideas and turn them into goods and services that can be sold globally.

Some 300 youth leaders aged between 18 and 35 from the 21 Apec economies, including Singapore, the US and China, participated in the Apec Voices of the Future, held as a webinar this year. It was hosted by the Apec Voices Leadership Council in partnership with the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Council and the Apec Secretariat, with the theme, Apec Re-imagined: Priorities in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Youth leaders who spoke at the webinar were concerned about the economy, raising questions on what can be done to tackle issues such as country-first policies adopted amid Covid-19. Others asked how there can be greater engagement between youth and the business agencies of Apec as well as governments.

Joining Mr Tan as panellists at the webinar were former undersecretary-general of the United Nations Noeleen Heyzer and Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit. Chief executive of Strategic Moves and former Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan moderated the discussion, which was held at the Institute of Technical Education College Central in Ang Mo Kio and live-streamed on YouTube.

(From left) Strategic Moves chief executive Viswa Sadasivan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan, former UN undersecretary-general Noeleen Heyzer and Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Voices of the Future 2020 Youth Webinar on Nov 30, 2020. PHOTO: NYAA COUNCIL

Dr Heyzer said the pandemic has highlighted to the youth the challenges that the world faces - environmental and health issues, as well as the inequalities experienced by marginalised groups such as migrant workers.

She added: "We have to realise that health security and investment in our healthcare is the main requisite if we were to have any economic recovery, especially if it were a global one... We have to ensure that health security is a global public good and the vaccine that is developed has to be a people's vaccine."

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