SINGAPORE – Even as he reassured Singaporeans that the young have a good future, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday outlined what the Government will do better to improve opportunities for everyone.
He said the Government will make opportunities more equal at an early stage in life, provide “ladders for success” to Singaporeans after they leave school, and improve the delivery of subsidies to older Singaporeans.
Speaking at his constituency’s National Day Dinner last night at Taman Jurong, Mr Tharman said Singapore’s situation is “not bad” to start with.
Almost eight in 10 Singaporean parents were confident that their children will do better than them when they grow up, he said, citing a recent survey commissioned by The Straits Times and reported on July 21. This is in contrast to a global survey by Pew Research Centre, released on July 12, which found fewer than half of American parents feel the same way, Mr Tharman noted.
In Europe and Japan, the Pew survey found that fewer than half of parents there are confident of their children doing better than themselves when they grow up.
Mr Tharman said that not everyone does well in school, and it was important to help young Singaporeans after they leave school.
“We still have in Singapore too much emphasis on academic credentials,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we provide ladders to success for everyone, including those who do not do well in school. And there’s more work to be done in this regard, by the employers and by all of us as customers and as society.
“We have to pay more respect to blue collar workers, give them pride in their jobs, pay them fairly and help them progress in their careers up to the highest level their skills can take them.”
Mr Tharman cited two employees he met on Thursday at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, who started out as waiters before subsequently upgrading themselves. One of them, Branden Chia, 31, attained his diploma and is now earning nearly three times the S$1,100 he started out with 12 years ago.
Some older Singaporeans have expressed concerns about low pay and healthcare costs, and Mr Tharman said the Government will help via increasing productivity and wages through the tripartite approach, via Workfare, and via the healthcare framework of Medisave, MediShield and Medifund.
“Many of them are still worried about their healthcare costs and we will improve how we deliver our subsidies, how we explain upfront how much they can receive, so they don’t have to worry so much before their treatments,” he said.