Singapore

Government should help millennials get 'future ready'

The first sitting of Parliament took place yesterday afternoon and Members of Parliament took turns debating President Tony Tan Keng Yam's address made two weeks ago.

Singapore's future will be shaped by millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 2000, so structures should be put in place to help them succeed and be "future ready", said new Member of Parliament (MP) Desmond Choo.

Making his maiden speech in Parliament yesterday, the Tampines GRC MP called on the Government to do more to help people in this age group succeed in areas of work, home and society.

There are about 1.2 million millennials who make up 22 per cent of Singapore's resident population.

Mr Choo, who is also director of NTUC's youth development unit, said: "In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, talent rather than capital will be the critical factor of production. It is vital to Singapore that we prepare them for this future economy."

Mr Choo also highlighted the need for millennials to adapt to the changing world where competencies such as lifelong learning and learning agility are key.

Among his suggestions to help millennials was for the Government to consider giving new mothers an additional eight weeks of flexi-work arrangement on top of the existing 16 weeks of maternity leave.

FLEXIBLE WORK

He also said that employers can do more to adopt outcome-based mindsets and allowing for flexible work arrangements.

"Millennials are accustomed to working everywhere. Trusting them to manage their targets while mentoring them provides for a nurturing work environment.... Diversity of work arrangements can play to the strengths of our employees," he said.

Based on his interactions with millennials, Mr Choo expressed concern for those who have not thought about their career paths or new opportunities.

He said: "Singapore also faces uncertainty in the economic and geopolitical spaces. Preparing early and being ready to adapt quickly to new workplace requirements is more important than ever."

Mr Choo said that, apart from the existing Ministry of Education initiatives like deploying education and career guidance counsellors, a stronger link between schools and workplaces can be fostered to help students and young workers make career choices.

He suggested that industry professionals volunteer as formal and informal mentors to enhance the existing initiatives and called on the Government to work closely with the Labour Movement to tap on its existing networks.

He said: "If we harness the strengths of millennials and are willing to look for ways to support them, they can take us boldly and purposefully into SG100."

'We must be united in facing threats'

Sembawang GRC MP Amrin Amin (above) witnessed the "shock and horror" on the streets of New York when terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre on Sept 11, 2001.

Then an exchange student at Columbia University, Mr Amrin recalled how the Americans came together to comfort one another and support the first responders after the attacks.

But he also remembered the sense of fear - people running out of buildings and subways after false alarms and taking revenge on Muslim Americans or those who looked like them.

In his maiden speech in Parliament yesterday, Mr Amrin, who is Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, used his experience to illustrate how the community has to stay united in the event of a terrorist attack.

He warned that even with our "best efforts", the possibility of such an attack in Singapore cannot be ruled out.

But he added that if it does happen, Singapore has to ensure that the terrorists do not succeed with their agenda to spread chaos and sow discord.

"Brick and mortar can be repaired and rebuilt easily. Fractures in our community cannot be fixed so readily," he said.

WHAT THE MPS SAID

I will not pollute this House by naming specific websites, but we know who they are, and can guess how much money they made from advertising while teaching Singaporeans to hate.

- Dr Tan Wu Meng, MP for Jurong GRC, about the need for unity amid new fault lines in society

I have spoken of a need for a broader definition of merit. All the qualities, attributes, interests, achievements and moral grounding of a person cannot be expressed in one metric.

- Acting Minister for Education and MP for Sembawang GRC Ong Ye Kung

We have to acknowledge that we have a system that works - one that hasn't stood stagnant, but has evolved and changed as part of an organic process of responding to the desires of Singaporeans.

- Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Alex Yam about Singapore's model of democracy

Issues raised in Parliament

1 SCRAP ADDITIONAL BUYER'S STAMP DUTY

Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher De Souza called for the removal of the Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) while retaining the Total Debt Service Ratio for Singaporean home buyers. 

He explained that a Singaporean who can afford to buy a second or third property through the TSDR regime is already getting a loan within his means and should not be penalised with the additional tax.

Local buyers have to pay an ABSD of 7 per cent when they buy a second residential property.

2 HELP POOR FAMILIES SEND CHILDREN TO PRE-SCHOOL

Currently, one in six Indian families do not send their children to pre-school, said Sembawang GRC MP Vikram Nair, quoting a study by the Singapore Indian Development Association. Calling on the Government to help lower-income families send their children to pre-school, he said there is a perception among these families that pre-school is expensive and unaffordable.

He added that missing out on pre-school seems to have knock-on effects - 8 per cent of Indian students do not have post-secondary education.

3 BASE SOCIAL ASSISTANCE ON INCOME, NOT HOUSE TYPE

Mountbatten SMC MP Lim Biow Chuan said that many residents living in private estates are asset-rich but cash-poor.

They do not qualify for any social benefits although they are retired and have no income.

In contrast, there are Singaporeans who have higher incomes but live in HDB flats and receive social benefits, he said.

Asking the Government to help retiring Singaporeans who live in private estates, he said: "Is their only option to sell off their dream homes where they have lived all their lives?"

4 STOP THE NCMP SCHEME

Marine Parade GRC MP Fatimah Lateef described the Non-Constituency MP scheme as "lacklustre" and suggested that it be scrapped.

Instead, she called for smaller group representation constituencies, more single member constituencies and to expand the nominated MP scheme so that it is more robust, more structured and has greater inclusivity.

5 HIGHLIGHT FAILURES TOO

The Ministry of Education's decision for schools to reject appeals for transfer from students who did not meet the PSLE T score, sends a signal to parents that academic results are still the most important criteria for progression within the system, said Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim.

For our education system to produce Singaporeans who can "dream and chase rainbows", Ms Lim called for the school syllabus to highlight case studies of failures.

She said: "As dreams also carry the risk of failure, students should also learn that some things may be worth doing even if one fails."

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