The National Youth Council (NYC), Global Shapers Community (Singapore Hub) and the NTU Students’ Union (part of the Inter-University Network) co-organised the fourth in the series of seven National Youth Dialogues, “Enhancing Health and Support for Families”, on 6 November 2022, involving 70 participants and the following panellists:

  • Minister Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Health
  • Minister Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Health
  • Minister Indranee Rajah, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and National Development
  • (Moderator) Mr V Dhanraj, President of the Nanyang Technological University Students’ Union (NTUSU)
Snapshots from NYD 4: Enhancing Health and Support for Families, held at SCAPE* The TreeTop on 6 November 2022


The session discussed three themes: Health, Social Mobility, and Families

Theme: Health

Discussion points from breakout session:

  • Participants said that stressors that impeded physical and mental well-being were often intertwined. They encouraged youths to lead healthier lifestyles and positively influence their social circles as well.
  • Participants acknowledged Singapore’s ageing population and the increase of chronic diseases and said that means testing was an arduous process for Singaporeans to apply for grants. They suggested making health screenings more affordable and accessible to youths. 

Key insights from the panel dialogue: 

Question: How will the Government ensure that youths live physically and mentally healthy lifestyles?

  • Minister Ong said that mental health issues for youths were increasing both locally and globally due to globalisation and social media. He said that digital literacy and cyber wellness should be integrated into the education curriculum from a young age to address this issue. 
  • Minister Ong said that it was critical not to “over-medicalise” mental health issues, and the Government would continue to look into increasing its institutional capacity in strengthening preventive care by establishing good habits that would contribute to mental wellness.

Question: Is the Government actively looking into the issue of medical illiteracy, especially among the elderly? If so, what are the policies that we can look forward to?

  • Minister Ong said that the COVID-19 pandemic allowed for the integration of GPs into the public health system to deliver better preventive care. As such, this could ensure lasting patient-doctor relationships and improve elderly medical literacy. 

Question: Can the Government simplify means-testing to be more flexible, especially for underprivileged families or those who fall into grey areas? 

  • Minister Ong said that while means-testing remained necessary to highlight those who most required subsidies and assistance, the system could be simplified by reducing the need for repeated means-testing by different agencies as patients moved across the healthcare system.

Question: Given the rising competition for skilled nursing care worldwide, how does Singapore ensure it has enough resources to staff our increasing needs?

  • Minister Ong said that besides training more local nurses, it was also important to encourage good foreign nurses to work in Singapore and ensure their integration into the care team.
  • Minister Ong encouraged participants not to view other countries’ recruitment of Singaporean nurses as competition but as a potential for Singapore to grow as a talent hub for nursing training and qualifications. 

Theme: Social Mobility

Discussion points from breakout session:

  • Participants said that social mobility was related to a sense of “not falling behind” and acknowledged that Singaporeans had a certain trust in the system that hard work would be rewarded with upward mobility. 
  • Participants said that enhancing social mobility necessitated rethinking the forms of support offered and examining if other platforms (e.g. aside from housing) could be provided as a springboard for Singaporeans to achieve their potential. 
  • Participants called for the private and people sectors to play a larger role in improving social mobility by offering upskilling opportunities for parents and providing additional support for children.  

Key insights from the panel dialogue: 

Question: How do we allow opportunities and information to become more accessible to low or middle-income groups? 

  • Minister Masagos said it was critical to build trust with lower- and middle-income families to understand their needs better and assist them accordingly by providing them with accurate information and timely interventions. He shared that many children living in rental flats did not attend preschool as caregivers were often busy and unaware of the opportunities and help that were available to them. 
  • Minister Masagos said that corporations should not rely solely on donating money to fulfil their corporate social responsibility as running upskilling programmes targeted at lower-income groups to impart helpful knowledge would be more beneficial. 
  • Minister Masagos said that improving social mobility issues required coordination between different parties such as the Government, volunteer organisations, and corporations, to ensure the long-term betterment of society.

Question: Our society seems to be quite resistant to wealth taxes. How do we enable wealth to flow better across society? 

  • Minister Ong said that many international economies would conclude that the fairest and most resilient tax was the Goods and Services Tax (GST). He said that the GST would need to be coupled with good redistribution and social spending programmes such as investing in high-quality education and healthcare systems targeted at the masses.
  • Minister Masagos agreed that taxation was one of many structures for income redistribution. He added that wealth was best transferred through generosity and should not be forced, as many charitable actions tended to be carried out to fulfil personal spiritual needs.

Theme: Families

Discussion points from breakout session:

  • Participants said that Singaporeans faced many challenges in building and supporting their families such as housing stressors, rising costs of living and caregiving burdens.
  • Participants emphasised the importance of social structure in supporting families, such as social support from communities. They encouraged individuals to extend support to others to foster a family-friendly culture. 
  • Participants said that work-life balance issues affected Singaporeans’ desire to start families. While they acknowledged that flexible work arrangements (FWAs) were helpful, they also called for more equitable work arrangements between mothers and fathers, and infrastructure to support different needs (e.g. childcare). 

Key insights from the panel dialogue: 

Question: How can the Government provide more support to ensure a good work-life balance for families and strengthen the social structure to give Singaporeans the reassurance they need to start a family?

  • Minister Indranee said that the Government encouraged FWAs to ensure better work-life balance. She said that while FWA was generally associated with work-from-home arrangements, it would not apply to all employees (e.g. frontline workers). She said that to ensure the effectiveness of FWAs, employers must also come on board as changing and redesigning structures would start from the workplace and HR departments. 
  • Minister Indranee said that the Government would continue to review support provided to address the cost of living issues for families, such as reducing fee caps for childcare. She encouraged parents to adopt good parenting habits and provide a supportive environment aligned with their child’s needs. 

Question: Is it possible to equalise parental leave in the long run?

  • Minister Indranee said that the policy for shared parental leave was a start, and the Government would first have to encourage fathers to better utilise paternity leave as the current uptake was 50%. She said employers also had to be encouraged to be more facilitative of fathers taking paternity leave.
  • Minister Ong said that as gender roles evolved, leave entitlement should also move in a similar direction. However, he acknowledged that more needed to be done to ensure gender equality.