Vibrant next gen key to continued success of Malay/Muslims

Shanmugam says Govt will keep proportion of Malays here stable amid dip in fertility rate

(From left, front row) Mr Fandi Ahmad, Mr K. Shanmugam, Mr Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir; (from left, second row) Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Berita Harian Editor Mohd Saat Abdul Rahman, Fairprice Group CEO (Retail Business) Elaine Heng and SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

The Malay/Muslim community has made good social progress, but for it to continue to be successful, it needs a vibrant next generation, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.

He said the total fertility rate of the Malay community has dipped even further from 1.85 in 2018 to 1.80 in 2019, which is well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

"The Malay community is not replacing itself. Of course, the figures are even worse for the Chinese and Indian communities, but that's not a consolation. It's difficult (for our country) to be successful if we don't have children," he said yesterday.

But Mr Shanmugam, who was speaking at the Berita Harian's Achiever of the Year award ceremony, assured that the Government will keep the proportion of Malays here stable. The community currently forms 15 per cent of the Singapore citizen population.

He said the Government will continue to work with the community to encourage excellence and achieve better outcomes for all.

He held up several initiatives from the M3 collaboration between three key Malay/Muslim organisations: Mendaki, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (Mesra).

These include the SGTeguhBersatu (Singapore Resilient in Unity) task force, which brought together community partners and government agencies to improve support measures in areas like employment and mental health.

He also highlighted the work by continuing education and training provider Mendaki Sense, which has helped more than 650 people land a job.

Mr Shanmugam sketched out three broad areas where he said the Malay community has made progress. First, in the area of income, the minister noted that the median monthly household income of Malay households has risen by more than 80 per cent over 15 years, from $2,900 in 2000 to $5,340 in 2015.

In terms of education, one in two Malay students progresses to publicly funded full-time degree or diploma courses - an improvement from the one in four 20 years ago, he noted.

The third area is in terms of home ownership, as nine out of 10 Malay households now own their homes, and more than 60 per cent of these people live in a four-room flat or larger, Mr Shanmugam added.

He said: "Tremendous progress has been made, (and there is a) bright future for the children… who can get good jobs and excel. And that is also our wider Singapore story."

Mr Shanmugam presented the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year award to Mr Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir, deputy chief prosecutor and senior state counsel at the Attorney-General's Chambers. The award was given in recognition of Mr Faizal's contributions to the legal sector as well as to the community.

Berita Harian's Young Achiever of the Year title went to national team footballer Ikhsan Fandi, 21, who is currently playing for Norwegian First Division club Jerv.

Mr Fandi Ahmad and his daughter Iman collecting the the Berita Harian Young Achiever of the Year award on behalf of her brother Ikhsan Fandi. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Saying that many other accomplished and exemplary individuals like Mr Faizal and Mr Ikhsan have become role models for the next generation, Mr Shanmugam urged the Malay/Muslims to give back and to support one another.

"We must build on our successes and contribute to a thriving, integrated, vibrant Malay/Muslim community," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2020, with the headline Vibrant next gen key to continued success of Malay/Muslims. Subscribe