YOUTH PANELS: TOPICS SANDBOX (31 AUGUST) [SESSION HIGHLIGHTS]
YOUTH PANELS: TOPICS SANDBOX (31 AUGUST) [SESSION HIGHLIGHTS]
31 AUGUST 2023, 6.00PM – 9.30PM
ASIAN CIVILISATIONS MUSEUM, NGEE ANN AUDITORIUM
On 31 August 2023, 107 youths participated in an engagement to gain a deeper understanding of the youth panels and learn how they could play a bigger part in Singapore’s future as co-creators of policies with the Government.
The participants engaged in a dialogue with Chief Executive Officer of the National Youth Council (NYC), Mr David Chua, hosted by Mr Rishi Budhrani, on: (a) the progress of the youth panels, (b) what they hoped the panels would achieve and, (c) how youths could contribute to the process. The participants also participated in breakout group discussions to share their thoughts on what policy issues they would like the youth panels to prioritise.
Speaker: Mr David Chua, Chief Executive, National Youth Council (NYC)
Host: Mr Rishi Budhrani, Host and Actor
Opening remarks by Mr Chua
Reasons for the Government to start the youth panels initiative
- Mr Chua explained that the youth panels stemmed from a recognition that the texture of trust between the public and the Government was changing, and the youth panels were part of a wider Government effort to remain up to date with youth sentiments.
- Mr Chua elaborated that the youth panels aimed to be transparent in its implementation process to build mutual understanding and trust between youths and the Government. Mr Chua shared that the policy issues looked into by the youth panels would be a balance between what the youths cared about and what the Government could open for legislative change.
- Mr Chua explained that the government agency working with the panel would commit to supporting the panel’s work through providing access to policy contexts, data and staff resources. Mr Chua stressed that policymaking was laborious and time consuming, and might not necessarily translate to policy change. However, Mr Chua shared that the resulting process of the youth panels would still serve as an important reference point for the increased involvement of youth in future legislative processes.
Structure and timeline of the youth panels
- Mr Chua shared that each youth panel would consist of up to 4 leads and 30 members, and would ensure a diverse and inclusive representation. He added that each panel would be supported by 2 advisors, whose role would be to guide the progress and keep the proposed solutions aligned with the policy parameters.
- Mr Chua concluded that each panel could be working on different timelines with different endpoints, depending on the policy needs. Given the long duration of the panels, the relatively large member count would also serve as a mitigating factor to ensure that the work progresses, even if members were to take turns to focus on other commitments.
Question and answer segment
A participant asked about the attitudes, posture, and values that were expected of the youths participating in the youth panels. Additionally, the participant asked if panel members were expected to have experience in the policy area, and how diverse viewpoints would be ensured.
- Mr Chua explained that youth panel members were expected to demonstrate openness, patience, honesty, and that they should be ready to receive hard feedback from stakeholders.
- Mr Chua also assured that participants who presented contrarian views would not suffer personal ramifications.
- Mr Budhrani also shared about the importance of patience and emphasised the thankless nature of volunteer work and the public service.
- Mr Chua emphasised that diversity was not limited to racial background but also encompassed diversity in life experiences and skill sets.
A participant asked about the continuity of the youth panels beyond 2024, and if the panels would refresh its existing panel members. The participant further asked if the working timeline of each panel could be extended past 2024.
- Mr Chua explained that reviews would be in place to determine if the youth panels would require further reiteration or refinement, with the ultimate aim of pivoting the youth panels towards becoming a sustainable initiative.
- Mr Chua elaborated that the number of youth panels per iteration would be adjusted in proportion to the availability of policy areas offered by government agencies.
- Mr Chua shared that existing members could be given the option to continue with or exit from the youth panels should the work required extend beyond their ability to commit.
A participant asked about the level of guidance they could expect to receive from the panel advisors.
- Mr Chua shared that through the course of the panels, participants could expect a wealth of guidance not only from advisors, but also from subject-matter experts, policymakers, and government agencies.
A participant raised a query on the working dynamic between the youth panels and the respective government agencies, and if there would be a direct interface or if NYC would serve as an intermediary.
- Mr Chua shared that there would be a direct interface between the youth panels and the agencies. Mr Chua also assured that NYC would be present to facilitate the interaction process, advocate for the panels’ interests and ensure that openness and honesty is kept between the Government and the panels.
A participant asked how the youth panels’ diversity would be operationalised, given each individual’s intersectional experiences and viewpoints.
- Mr Chua said that it was important to capture diverse intersectionalities rather than pursue one-dimensional diversity. He added that participants would be expected to look at issues not only through isolated aspects of their experiences but also through their intersectional identities as a collective panel.
A participant asked about the level of autonomy that the youth panels would have in exploring policy topics and gathering data points.
- Mr Chua shared that the youth panels would have the freedom to explore the issues related to the policy, and would be given the autonomy to conduct their own data gathering through research and engaging other youths.
A participant wanted to know about the fate of a panel if it were to sunset before its outcome was reached, and the mitigation plans to prevent it from happening.
- Mr Chua noted that there were multiple factors that could result in an unexpected termination of a youth panel. However, he shared that it was his hope for the stakeholders to be transparent in conducting an objective and constructive review.
- Mr Chua further said that he hoped for participants and civil servants to not become disillusioned with the youth panels, which at its core, was a constantly developing programme.
A participant asked if the youth panel members would receive some form of monetary compensation.
- Mr Chua shared that there would be no formal monetary compensation, but the Government could help to defray costs such as transportation.
- Mr Chua also shared that external stakeholders would be involved on a pro bono basis, and a sizable number of civil servants who were invested in bringing the youth panels to fruition would also be involved outside of work hours.
A participant asked if the youth panels would be developing policies from scratch.
- Mr Chua explained that the panels would primarily be expected to build on existing policies or master plans.
- However, Mr Chua did not exclude the possibility of developing policies from scratch, reminding participants that it would be an arduous process that required more time.
Key insights from breakout discussions on topic-specific issues that could be looked into by the youth panels
Topic: Cost of Living
- Financial literacy: Participants shared that financial literacy (e.g. learning about the Central Provident Fund, insurance, budgeting, etc.) was not adequately covered in the formal education system despite its importance. Participants also said that resources for financial literacy should be provided beyond school and could constitute a form of lifelong learning.
- Financial aspirations: Participants said that the rising cost of living made it harder for youths to realise their financial aspirations or retirement goals. They also said that as the sandwich generation, the burden of caring for the elderly and the young has increased significantly in this costly landscape.
- Growing income disparity: Participants said that the economic divide was getting more apparent, citing examples of how some groups were profiteering off property purchases while others had difficulty affording public housing. Participants also shared that the uncertain prospects of welcoming ultra-high-net-worth foreigners into Singapore were a source of uneasiness among locals amidst the growing income disparity.
Topic: Jobs and Economy
- School-to-work transition: Participants shared that there was insufficient support from educational institutions, especially in the early stages of their education journey, to facilitate the transition from school to work (e.g. career guidance, interest discovery, internship access, financial literacy, political literacy, etc.). They added that emotional readiness was equally crucial for youths in their transition; however, the system tended to focus on technical readiness instead.
- Pathways to success: Participants said there was still stigmatisation towards less traditional educational pathway choices and taking extended breaks from school or work, affecting youths’ mental health and career opportunities. Participants also said that providing equal access to networking and mentoring opportunities could better support youths pursuing differing trajectories of success and lifelong learning.
- Workplace well-being: Participants said that there were inadequate structures in place to address workplace grievances and harassment, resulting in unnecessary resignations and emotional distress. Participants also said that mental health among youths has been compromised due to the fast-paced shifts in work and the economy.
- Ageing workforce: Participants said that the stigmatisation of older workers despite their skills and experience was a prevalent issue. They further said that companies were, in fact, hiring older workers for the sake of receiving government grants instead of meaningful employment.
Topic: Technology and Digitalisation
- Digital well-being: Participants highlighted the importance of digital well-being as people lived in an increasingly connected world. They said it was important for Singapore to strengthen its cyber resilience as digital well-being could impact our mental health and social fabric.
- Digital literacy: Participants shared about the need to improve and level technological literacy among different population segments, which was important for preventing the digital divide and the spread of misinformation among less-savvy generations.
- Artificial intelligence: Participants said that with the pervasiveness of artificial intelligence (AI) in Singapore, there was a need for AI governance and regulation to build digital trust. They also raised concerns about the adequacy of Singapore’s educational curriculum in preparing future generations for the effects of AI on work.
Topic: Environment and Sustainability
- Zero waste: Participants shared that recycling awareness could be made more prominent in Singapore, and stakeholders could take reference from Japan and South Korea in their public education on recycling. Participants added that as a small nation, Singaporeans could be encouraged to consume less and be more sustainable in their daily lives to generate less waste.
- Net zero emissions: Participants said there was a need to increase our renewable or low-carbon energy sources. For instance, despite having a tropical climate, solar energy was an unsustainable form of renewable energy in Singapore due to its need for large land areas. Participants also recognised the caveat that in Singapore’s attempt to encourage public transportation to reduce carbon emissions, segments of the population might face difficulties with public commutes, such as the elderly or families with young children.
- Food security: Participants said that while Singapore’s two-pronged approach of investing in urban/vertical farming and diversifying imports was commendable, there might be a greater need for self-reliance through increasing local food production to achieve food security.
Topic: Support for Vulnerable Groups
- Definitions of “vulnerable”: Participants said there was a need to relook into the definitions of “vulnerable” as there were groups that have been overlooked – single parents, juvenile offenders and caregivers were examples of groups that could benefit from more robust systematic support.
- Persons with disabilities: Participants said that “persons with disabilities” was too broad a term that blanketed a range of people with differing needs. Participants also shared that there was a sharp drop-off in support systems after leaving the formal education system.
- Active citizenry and individual actions: Participants said that support for vulnerable groups required active citizenry and individual actions, which would promote the integration of vulnerable persons into the community rather than just top-down structural support. They added that policies might not have to benefit vulnerable groups directly but could support them by (dis)incentivising certain social or workplace behaviours by non-vulnerable individuals.
Closing remarks by Mr Chua
- Mr Chua said that the insights from this engagement would be shared with stakeholders and would be used to sharpen the identification of potential policy areas for the youth panels to work on.
- Mr Chua shared that he was heartened that the mission to give youths a seat at the policymaking table resonated with the participants, encouraging them to contribute to the youth panels, whether as members or as participants of panel-led engagements, to work with the Government in co-creating Singapore’s future.