Jobs among Singaporeans' main concerns, says Indranee

Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah (in red) and Reach chairman Sam Tan (centre) interacting with participants at the Pre-Budget 2019 Dialogue at the Asian Civilisations Museum yesterday. Innovation, and how the Government can give this a boos
Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah (in red) and Reach chairman Sam Tan (centre) interacting with participants at the Pre-Budget 2019 Dialogue at the Asian Civilisations Museum yesterday. Innovation, and how the Government can give this a boost, was one of five themes discussed.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

With trade tensions looming as the region grows, jobs are among Singaporeans' main concerns, Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah said yesterday on the sidelines of a public dialogue to gather views ahead of Budget 2019.

"Older workers in particular would want to know how they can be supported, either to access new jobs, or to prepare themselves to be able to do the same jobs in a different way," she added.

This is a continuing theme as technology continues to change the workplace. The answer to this problem is not just helping workers to upskill but also encouraging innovation and supporting companies in accessing opportunities in this region, said Ms Indranee, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

"As you grow the economy, you generate revenue, income, growth, (and) then, you will also have the money to help on the social side," she replied when asked how next year's Budget will be different from before.

Innovation, and how the Government can give this a boost, was one of five themes discussed during yesterday's dialogue at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Other topics included ageing, healthcare and support for families, such as those from lower-income or vulnerable groups.

At the event, organised by government feedback unit Reach and the Ministry of Finance, about 100 participants mooted ideas including on how citizens can help strengthen community resilience and ensure domestic security, and talked about building a more caring society.

While she said she could not go into the specifics of next year's Budget, Ms Indranee stressed that the Government remains committed to bridging inequality gaps.

Leaders have to address the key issues on people's minds, Ms Indranee told reporters yesterday.

Apart from job worries, families face other pressures, she added, noting that this is so for those with young children and elderly parents.

While she said she could not go into the specifics of next year's Budget, Ms Indranee stressed that the Government remains committed to bridging inequality gaps.

"You have to... drill down to what are the real causes of this, and what is it that holds those back who are unable to proceed forward," she added, citing work in progress to help children from disadvantaged families, such as an inter-agency task force she is leading to help "uplift" students from disadvantaged families.

The problem sometimes relates to time, with parents possibly holding two or three jobs and having other caregiving responsibilities.

This was an issue echoed by participants yesterday.

Mr Steven Lee, 47, chief executive of a consulting company, recalled the financial strain of raising his twins seven years ago, despite being a professional. He took a pay cut to spend more time with them.

"Even with government subsidies, childcare fees were high at $850 a month," he said. Besides subsidies, he added, what will help is educating young people on financial planning for parenthood.

Administrative executive Hasnah Salleh, 62, said government aid should cover a wider range of chronic illnesses too, so as to provide better care for the ageing population. "Especially for those who have multiple illnesses, the subsidies you get in a year are not enough," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2018, with the headline 'Jobs among Singaporeans' main concerns, says Indranee'. Print Edition | Subscribe