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Homesingapore'Embrace wider definitions of success': Forward SG report lays out roadmap for...

'Embrace wider definitions of success': Forward SG report lays out roadmap for a new Singapore vision

SINGAPORE: More than materialism, Singaporeans now chase meaning – and the evolving Singapore Dream must be reflected in key shifts around how its citizens define success across all areas of life.

This was outlined in the Forward SG report released on Friday (Oct 27), which laid out a roadmap for a new way forward for Singapore.

The Forward SG exercise, launched in June 2022, was led by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and other fourth-generation (4G) political leaders to review and refresh Singapore’s “social compact”. This has been described as “the glue that holds society together, the shared understanding of our roles and responsibilities towards each other, and our shared values and aspirations as a people”.

The exercise brought together more than 200,000 Singaporeans over 16 months to discuss issues ranging from careers to ageing and environmental sustainability. 

An area that “constantly emerged” in discussions, according to the report that spanned almost 180 pages, was how the idea of a “good life” has evolved beyond material success.

“In particular, there have been discernible shifts in our youths’ mindset. When young people today talk about careers and jobs, they often express a desire for meaning and purpose in what they do, not just for good salaries. In other words, we want to embrace wider definitions of success,” it noted. 

The exercise also found that Singaporeans agree it is critical to have a strong and vibrant economy, as well as to uphold values of fairness, inclusiveness, stewardship, and “a shared sense of solidarity and mutual responsibility, where everyone gives back to society and helps those in need”. 

At the same time, “hard conversations” involving different views that were encountered reinforced core principles Singapore should continue to uphold and highlighted existing approaches to be refreshed. 

On the whole, the exercise found that Singaporeans want a society that is vibrant and inclusive, fair and thriving, and resilient and united. 

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CHANGES NEEDED IN EDUCATION, JOBS, SOCIAL SUPPORT

Refreshing the Singapore Dream hence requires several key shifts, spanning education, jobs and support for families and seniors, the report stated.

In education, the focus should shift from an education arms race to a mentality that strives to learn and improve throughout life. Along the same vein, this means creating diverse career pathways for Singaporeans to be the “best version of themselves” and make a difference in their own ways. 

Individual responsibility should go hand in hand with “a greater sense of collective responsibility” – from providing more support for families and seniors to helping Singaporeans bounce back from setbacks with a better social support system. 

“Ultimately, we aim to build a stronger sense of solidarity and identity as Singaporeans … We want every Singaporean to know and feel a stake in our shared future, while possessing a sense of obligation and responsibility to one another,” the report said. 

To realise this collective vision, it outlined seven key shifts required: 

1. Support families through every stage of life

Making Singapore the best place to start, grow or nurture families means giving them more assurance and helping them balance work and family commitments, the report said. 

More support will be provided for new parents, including possible increases to paid parental leave and expanding centre-based infant care places and childcare options. 

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Singaporeans will get more support for mental well-being and work-life harmony, through a set of tripartite guidelines on flexible work arrangements to be released in 2024 and the national mental health and well-being strategy launched earlier this month.

Increasing the affordability of early intervention, education, and care services for families with children with developmental and special educational needs will also improve support for caregivers.

2. Respect and reward every job 

Addressing Singaporeans’ growing desire for meaningful jobs and opportunities to develop mastery of skills, this key shift will require further reducing wage gaps for those in “hands” and “heart” jobs. The report listed professional tradespeople like electricians and plumbers, as well as many in the healthcare and aged care sectors.

The government will study how it can help Institute of Technical Education graduates by defraying the costs of obtaining a diploma and possibly topping up their Central Provident Fund (CPF) when they graduate. 

It will also support those who want to switch careers by using digital tools and career guidance services to provide more personalised recommendations on jobs and skills pathways.

A new support scheme to help “involuntarily unemployed jobseekers” will be rolled out to help them “bounce back stronger”.

The government will also work with employers and industry associations to nurture local talent to become specialists and leaders in their fields, especially for top regional roles in multinational corporations.

3. Embrace learning beyond grades 

Relatedly, the report highlighted the need for Singaporeans to pursue lifelong learning “beyond grades”.

A “significant boost” to SkillsFuture will be provided to help mature mid-career Singaporeans reskill and upskill. This includes a substantial top-up of SkillsFuture credit and support for Singaporeans to obtain another publicly funded diploma. 

This shift also requires a broadened definition of merit and developing more diverse pathways, such as the move to full subject-based banding in secondary schools from next year. 

Cultivating a love for learning also means giving every child a good start, including paying more attention to children from lower-income families. 

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4. Empower those in need 

Support for children from lower-income families also entails closing “early gaps” by raising preschool enrolment and attendance, the report said. Changes that will be made in this area include extending full childcare subsidies to lower-income families based on their income tier. 

This key shift to empower those in need also includes working with community partners to provide additional support to empower vulnerable families to “sustain progress” in improving their life circumstances.

It will also see strengthened support for people with disabilities to pursue lifelong learning, and create more inclusive environments where they can “participate and live independently”.

5. Enable seniors to age well 

As Singapore’s population continues to age, enabling seniors to age well is key, and this can be achieved through national programmes like Healthier SG and Age Well SG. 

The government will encourage active ageing in the community by expanding the network of active ageing centres and revamping their operations. It will also strengthen the community-based aged care system, making seniors’ care journey “simpler and more seamless”, the report said.

Seniors will also see improvements to their living environment, including more senior-friendly features and more housing options integrated with care provisions.

To ensure seniors retire with “peace of mind”, existing schemes like the Silver Support Scheme and Matched Retirement Savings Scheme will be enhanced. The Majulah Package, targeted at Singaporeans aged 50 and above this year, will also be introduced to boost their retirement savings.

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6. Invest in a shared tomorrow 

Singapore can deal with today’s challenges while providing a strong foundation for the future by “stewarding our limited resources responsibly and sustainably” on three main fronts, the report said. 

These include optimising limited land and environmental resources, strengthening our food and water security, and upholding fiscal prudence and responsibility. “All these will require more public resources, which come largely from tax revenues, as well as investment returns from our reserves. Difficult decisions will have to be made on how we will prioritise our spending, who pays, and how to keep our overall system fair and equitable,” the report stated. 

“These considerations of fairness apply not just to today but also across generations. If we only think short term, we may end up short-changing the next generation, who will inherit a Singapore that is ill-prepared for the challenges of the future.”

7. Do their part as one united people 

The report concluded that the collective strength of Singapore’s society depends on its unity and how people care for each other. 

Underpinning this is a need to nurture a stronger culture of giving, especially those who have done well, and better connect donors and volunteers to local community needs. 

It also requires strengthening multi-racialism and the Singaporean identity, as well as creating more avenues for civic participation.

“It is clear that Singapore is strongest when we stand together – when we recognise that caring for each other is also the best way to care for ourselves, and when we develop a deep sense of kinship and trust in one another,” the report said.

“In particular, those who have succeeded should do their part to uplift others in society.”

Ultimately, a “functioning and robust social compact creates trust”, the report added. “It leads to a sense of assurance that someone’s got our interests in mind – that we have got each other’s backs.”

While some of the key shifts are underway, details of other initiatives will be announced in the coming months and at Budget 2024.

Members of the public can explore the recommendations put forth in the report by visiting the Forward Singapore Festival at Gardens by the Bay from Friday to Sunday. The festival will then make its way into various heartland locations until Jan 28 next year. 

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