The PAP prioritises including every Singaporean on the Singapore Forward journey. To this end, PAP MPs gave suggestions in Parliament last week (Apr 17-21) on how to support different age groups and demographics of Singaporeans from youths to parents with little children to older men.
These solutions included training for the generative AI revolution, out-of-school mentoring for youths from lower-income families, upscaling community efforts to help parents, leave benefits to help singles care for their aged parents and support for older men.
Youth: Supporting housing aspirations and career guidance for young working adults
MP Henry Kwek (Kebun Baru SMC) spoke on the need to focus on two particular groups of youths as part of the renewed social compact: those from middle-class ones who excel in life and those from modest backgrounds.
The first group could be helped with their housing aspirations by the HDB raising the income ceiling and locking the income criteria for BTOs, said MP Kwek.
Similarly, the HDB could help house the second group by letting them pay only half the downpayment and increasing their loan quantum.
Additionally, youths in the second group can be supported with career mentoring and peer support outside of traditional school environments as well as being taught more life skills by the Ministry of Education (MOE):
“This will disproportionately help youths from disadvantaged backgrounds, given the fact that they face more challenges and possess less social capital. An important area is financial literacy. Our youths today need greater skill in navigating very different economic lives compared to generations before.”
Working adults: Training for the AI revolution
MP Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC) took stock of the rapid and continual developments in generative AI developments like ChatGPT, seeing this as a faster disruption of jobs than previous technologies.
She called for the Government to double down on readying Singaporeans for this AI revolution through cyber protection as well as mass skills upskilling:
“AI talent will be needed in business, academia and public service. And sorry, but we are not talking 400 people here. So, we will need training programmes at scale, at speed, to build a workforce that will be AI competitive 10 years from now.”
Parents with little ones: Community circles of help
MP Gan Siow Huang (Mountbatten SMC), who is also Minister of State for Education and Manpower, gave three solutions for supporting parents with young children.
She mentioned how the Ministry of Education (MOE) has set up Parent Support Group (PSG) Circles. These let different PSGs tap on each other’s expertise to collaboratively raise and develop children. MOS Gan also encouraged employers to look to the Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony to see how their employment practices can support working parents balance work and family.
MOS Gan added that while the Government will keep finding way to support families through enhancing schemes like the Baby Bonus Cash Gift and the Child Development Account (CDA) First Step grant, community efforts too can make a difference in supporting parents as well:
“This is especially helpful for vulnerable segments in our community. Community initiatives, such as mental well-being circles, mentorships, free tuition, grocery distributions and respite for caregivers, are just some of the many examples of how the community can chip in to help families in need.”
Singles: Parental care leave
Singles are a growing demographic — there currently is about one single for every Singaporean couple, calculated MP Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC).
She called for the Government to support singles in caregiving for parents, ageing gracefully and advance care planning.
These could take the form of mandatory leave benefits to give care to aged parents, co-living spaces for retired singles and tapping on the CPF and accredited insurance companies to set up savings trust arrangements for the elderly respectively.
“We must review our social policies to ensure that singles are not left out. While we encourage people to get married and have more children, pro-family and single-supportive policies need not be mutually exclusive. Whether you are single or married, we are all part of a Singapore family.”
Senior men: Men’s Sheds
MP Edward Chia (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) brought forth the idea of “Men’s Sheds” as a way to support older men.
“They refer to any community-based, non-profit, non-commercial organisation that is accessible to all men and whose primary activity is the provision of a safe and friendly environment,” explained MP Chia.
“A major objective is to advance the well-being and health of their male members. They are community spaces designed for men to connect, converse and create, and have become one of the most widespread and effective tools in addressing health and well-being, especially for older men, in many countries, including the UK and Australia.”
MP Chia noted that these Sheds are more attractive for men through featuring activities like drone flying and carpentry. He also noted that research shows Men’s Sheds improving health-seeking behaviours in their participants and help them overcome physical and mental illness.
Sources: Henry Kwek, Gan Siow Huang, Mariam Jaafar, Edward Chia, Poh Li San / Facebook