Four social issues will face Singapore in the upcoming years: Baby dearth, breakdown of the family instituion, the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of society and a volatile economy. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports, made this much clear at a recent seminar with academics and policymakers. Singaporeans
The complication of resolving these issues is only reflective of how intertwined they are. The unstable economy demands that families manage their income differently, which warps the traditional family institution. The lack of babies to replace diminishing local labour has to be managed by a looser immigration policy, which renders the society increasingly cosmopolitan. It’s impossible to tackle these macro-level issues individually and ignore the inevitable impacts on the other issues that the Singapore society faces.
It is therefore advisable that Singaporeans take a more open-minded approach to these issues. These issues are undeniably close to the hearts of the average Singaporean, which is a positive sign of Singapore’s forging of an identity, but remember that at the root of this identity is a history of openness. The necessary porousness of Singapore’s borders has always made Singapore highly influenced by the outside world and this embracement of change, really, is our identity.
So the next time you dismiss a foreigner for not being ‘Singaporean’, think about what it means to be Singaporean. Has it always been the same, or is it a romantic notion we cling onto?
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June 8, 2010
Four social policy issues facing S’pore
Baby dearth, volatile economy among challenges that will impact society: Balakrishnan
By Melissa Sim
SINGAPORE’S dearth of babies is well documented, but Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday cited some of its more abstract implications.
The baby bust could well give rise to a society less invested in the future, he said, and ‘more focused on consumption rather than building up for the future’, and one which will inevitably ‘have less buzz, less optimism and verve’.
He pointed out that the low birth rates here, coupled with a population turning rapidly greyer, thus presented not only an economic problem, but one which would also affect the ‘tone of society’.
He was speaking at a seminar on the social policy challenges Singapore will face, co-organised by the Centre for Social Development (Asia), under the Department of Social Work at the National University of Singapore and the Centre for Social Development at Washington University in St Louis.
The seminar, which drew 60 participants, was an opportunity for international and local academics and policymakers to discuss social policy challenges facing Singapore.
Aside from shifts in population trends, Dr Balakrishnan cited three other challenges for social policymakers: breakdown of the family institution, the increasingly cosmopolitan nature of society, and volatility of the economy.
Identifying the family as one of the Government’s priorities, he said it would not step in as a surrogate husband or parent, but aims to create a pro-family environment with campaigns and legislation, and work with partners such as schools and companies to keep the family unit strong.
He expressed hope that companies would factor in the needs of families when they expand and post their employees overseas; he urged businesses to give spouses of employees postings as well, so families stay intact.
He said that as the institution of family comes up against challenges, ‘we need to make adaptations so the family remains the crucial social pillar of our nation and we all continue to invest in it’.
Touching on the economy, he said social policies must ‘cushion’ society against the volatility of the economy in the short and long term, and ensure a downturn does not compromise the ‘essentials of life’, like food, housing, health care and education.
As Singapore plays host to an increasingly wide spectrum of people who come here to live and work, policies must remain ‘fair’. ‘We must give everyone the sense that if they work hard, look after their families and accumulate assets, they will be treated fairly and it will be worth their while,’ he said.
[SOURCE: STRAITS TIMES http://app.mfa.gov.sg/pr/read_content.asp?View,15065, ]
Dr S. Vasoo, who chairs the Centre for Social Development (Asia)’s advisory council, also touched on this point when he said makers of social policy must see that rewards and incentives are not given on the basis of colour or religion.