Singapore

Govt to take on board aspirations and concerns of youth: Edwin Tong

Young people today want to push for a more caring and inclusive society by reducing social inequality and improving civic discourse and participation, government engagement efforts under the SG Youth Action Plan last year have found.

This, in turn, brings up the more fundamental questions of what kind of social compact and politics Singaporeans want for the country in the long run, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong yesterday.

The key is to harness the energy of youth to bring about positive change, instead of allowing uncertainty and discontent about their future and aspirations to fester and result in negative confrontation, Mr Tong said on the fourth day of the debate on the President's Address.

He outlined two key thrusts of his ministry's plans on this front.

First, his ministry will work with the young to give voice to their dreams and aspirations, and the space and avenues to engage with the rest of society.

Second, Singapore needs to give its youth hope of a brighter future, including having good jobs and good lives.

The Youth Corps Internship Scheme that starts this month with 300 opportunities at social and community groups, and a YouthTech programme to equip 1,000 youth with digital skills and placements at such organisations, can help pave the way towards more opportunities.

On the aspirations of youth, Mr Tong said the Government recognises their changing values and ideals when it comes to longer-term social and political issues, and will work with them to better support vulnerable communities, embrace diverse viewpoints, and on other causes like the environment.

Building a more caring, inclusive society includes weaving the tapestry of Singapore's society to accommodate its diversity of threads seamlessly, he said.

Keeping it together is a must, for when a thread comes loose, it threatens the integrity of that next to it, and if left unchecked, could unravel the entire fabric.

And youth must have as much of a voice in this discourse as anyone else, he added. "While previous generations might have chased the traditional 5Cs, this generation is concerned with some other Cs - climate change, constant competition, and caring communities," he said.

His ministry will also expand its partnerships with young people on topics such as the stigma associated with mental health issues and environment sustainability, said Mr Tong, who said he agrees with Ms Raeesah Khan's (Sengkang GRC) view that the youth need to have a seat at the table to look at such issues.

"We will continue to create more opportunities and avenues for (the) youth to partner the Government and society on issues that matter to them, and we will do so on a regular and sustained basis," said Mr Tong.

They can also be given more platforms to have conversations with older generations to implement change, while understanding the trade-offs that age and experience can sometimes give better insight to, he added.

"The older generations in turn need to be a little more patient, accepting and appreciative of... differing views (across generations as)... these shared ideas help take us forward."

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