The Singapore General Elections in May 2011 threw up several critical socio-economic issues that Singapore and Singaporeans need to address moving forward. These include affordable housing; transportation; influx of foreigners; integration of new citizens; helping less well-off Singaporeans; employment and employability; and economic growth, among others.

YSA organised a dialogue with Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, on 26 November 2011 on ‘Ensuring Singapore’s Socio-economic Success: Challenges and Responses’. The session came at an opportune time as these factors have risen to prominence in recent months and remain as pressure points within our society.

During the session, Mr Lim stated that the government is concerned with structural unemployment and he expects it to get worse, given the economic outlook for Singapore. He told some 200 participants that the economy must expand by three to five percent over the next decade for real wages to keep growing. A key concern is the mismatch between workers’ skills and the need of employers. He added that low-wage workers and even professionals, managers and executive are vulnerable to structural unemployment.

Mr Lim further stated that the government’s current focus on achieving sustainable and inclusive growth is an extension of this goal, “Simply put, sustainable growth is to ensure there is enough opportunities. Inclusive growth is to minimise structural mismatch. In other words, if a growing number of Singaporeans are not able to take on these jobs that are being created in the economy, then they will be excluded.”

Mr Lim, who is also the Labour Chief, said the economy needs a mix of local and foreign enterprises to grow. The government’s aim is to ensure Singaporeans form the core of the workforce, even as it continues to accept foreign workers. The ratio between foreign and local workers will be kept at 1:2.

The lively discussion session saw Mr Lim fielding a slew of questions from the participants, ranging from inclusive growth, affordable housing and healthcare and social mobility to integration of new citizens, basic language skills for foreigners working in the services sector and national services for second generation permanent residents.

YSA launched the “Ministerial Dialogue” in November 2004 to enable young Singaporeans in particular and Singaporeans at large to gain a further understanding of local, regional and global issues and developments. Past ministerial dialogue speakers have included Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean; Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan; and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr George Yeo.

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