Strengthening our social compact will have to go beyond Government measures and redistributive policies, DPM Heng Swee Keat said. Each and everyone of us has a part to play, to build on the strengths that we have and to grow new strengths.
Our social compact was built on giving everyone a stake in our country. It’s what gives Singaporeans a sense of belonging and ownership. Education was a basic starting point and through our pubic housing schemes, Singaporeans – including those from lower-income households – were home owners.
Our social compact has endured the test of time and that has united – rather than divided – our people, Mr Heng said at The NUS115 Distinguished Speaker Series on 13 August 2021.
How do we further strengthen our social compact?
Mr Heng pointed out key areas of concern to further strengthen our social compact at a time when societies around the world are facing intensified stresses and divides.
These are: our lower-wage workers, our ageing population and mental well-being.
Our lower-wage workers
“We top up the incomes of the bottom 30% of our workers through Workfare. But we did not stop there,” Mr Heng said. “Through the Progressive Wage Model, we set and raise their basic wages, and provided a ladder for them to take on larger roles. We are currently in the process of rolling out PWM to many more sectors.”
Mr Heng also emphasized that this was not something that Government alone can do.
“Everyone must play their part. Employers must help their workers upskill, and create better working environments. Consumers must also be prepared to pay a little more to uplift wages.”
Our ageing population
Mr Heng said healthcare capacity and subsidies have been increased and more are also given to early generations through the Pioneer and Merdeka Generation Packages. However, he pointed out that the well-being of seniors goes beyond these.
It is about whether our seniors remain actively engaged in the community and reaching out to those who face social isolation.
“This requires each of us to play a role in making Singapore a great place for our seniors to live in – as their children, their friends or their neighbours,” Mr Heng said.
Tackling the emergence challenge of mental well-being
Many of us face pressures from different fronts – at school, at work, or at home in addition to having to deal with societal expectations. The pandemic has added further strain, Mr Heng said.
“As a society, we can better tackle mental well-being – raising awareness and de-stigmatising the issues, and better support those who need help. Each of us can also do our part to show care and concern for those around us and create a safe space for those who need support to come forward.”
A stronger social compact requires a collective societal effort
Increasingly, strengthening our social compact will have to go beyond Government measures and redistributive policies, said Mr Heng.
“Each of us will have a part to play and every effort counts. This is the only way we can strengthen our social compact, and build a better future for everyone.”
Mr Heng said that as we look towards a much more uncertain and complex global future, we can build upon three key strengths in our society: our sense of unity, in a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural society; our creative capacity in forging our own path in our national development; and our social compact that allowed us to give every citizen a stake in the country.
“But there is nothing intrinsically enduring about these strengths. Our founding generation built these strengths from nothing, through their wits and will. As quickly as these strengths have blossomed, they can also wither if we do not adapt. To have a better future, we must build on these strengths, and be prepared to grow new ones. Our ability to adapt depends on whether we can harvest lessons from our past, tend to the present, and seed the future. If we do, Singapore can continue to flourish for generations to come, much like the beautiful trees that can be found throughout your campuses.
This will require hard work and constant commitment. The strengths that I have described emanate from every one of us. To cultivate our sense of unity, we must embrace harmony in diversity. To grow our creative capacity, we must remain open to the world. To reinforce our social compact, we must each be prepared to play a part. Each of us must continue to deepen our own values, grow our adaptive capacity, and build meaningful relationships with the people around us. Above all, we must commit to growing new strengths.”