Forward SG Report: 7 key recommendations and policy shifts

Some changes and initiatives as part of the roadmap are already underway.

Keola Cheah

Irrationally moved by otter live cams. Enjoys trashy rock and metal.

Published: 27 October 2023, 9:23 AM

Following engagement sessions involving over 200,000 Singaporeans over the last 16 months, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong launched the Forward Singapore (Forward SG) Report and Forward Singapore Festival on Friday (Oct 27).

The report highlights how the Government will work with Singaporeans to “refresh [the] social compact for the road ahead” through recommendations and key policy shifts – built on suggestions from Singaporeans and stakeholders during the Forward SG engagement sessions.

Through these sessions, Singaporeans also shared that they want a society that is “vibrant and inclusive, fair and thriving, resilient and united”.

The Government shared that while it will “do more to provide opportunities and assurance”, people, community and businesses will need to “contribute in their own ways”. 

To achieve the shared future Singaporeans envision, some initiatives and changes are already underway. These include the nation-wide Mental Health and Well-being Strategy, and the new HDB Build-To-Order classification framework. Others remain as highlighted areas for the nation to focus on in future. 

Here are the seven key shifts identified:

1. Embracing learning beyond grades

The first shift outlined under Forward SG’s push to “[build] our shared future” is to embrace learning beyond grades.

Under this move, children will be encouraged to be curious and look for opportunities to learn. More attention will be given to children from lower-income families in order to “give every child a good start.”

The Government’s definition of “merit” will also be broadened in an attempt to redefine a student’s worth and steer the societal idea of success away from just grades or conventional life tracks.

One change to allow for more diverse pathways is the move to Full Subject-Based Banding, which allows students to study subjects at different levels.  

There will also be a boost to SkillsFuture to help mid-career Singaporeans reskill and upskill. This includes a top-up of the SkillsFuture Credit, a training allowance for mature workers (those aged 25 and above) to take on full-time long-form training, and support for Singaporeans to obtain another publicly-funded diploma.

2. Respecting and rewarding every job

In a move to respect and reward every job, there will be a reduction in wage gaps for jobs such as those in the blue-collar, service and community service industries. 

It also aims for more graduates from the Institute of Technical Education to be able to hone their skills in their respective industries. This will be made more accessible through the defraying of education costs.

As for the involuntarily unemployed in the lower and middle-income groups – for example, people who have been laid off – there will be a new support scheme to aid them in “[bouncing] back stronger.” 

To support Singaporeans planning for job transitions, digital tools and career guidance services will provide individuals with personalised recommendations. Through these, they may be able to find the right career and skill pathways.

The development of local talent will be encouraged through collaborative efforts with employers and industry associations. These efforts are aimed at nurturing Singaporeans to become “specialists and leaders in their fields”. 

This is targeted especially at top regional roles at multinational corporations (MNCs).

3. Supporting families through every stage

There will be an emphasis on giving more assurance to families, helping them balance work and family commitments, and supporting them in raising children while caring for elderly parents. 

Focus will be placed on Singaporeans’ mental well-being; increased accessibility of public housing; support for parents of infants; and caregiver support.

All families can anticipate greater support for their mental well-being and work-life balance. 

This will be achieved via the National Mental Well-being Strategy, which aims to increase the accessibility of mental health care to Singaporeans in both prevention and treatment of mental health conditions. 

READ: Four key improvements under the National Mental Health and Well-being Strategy to look out for 

In the future, Singaporeans can also look forward to the establishment of the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangements. Through this, employers are encouraged to offer employees more flexible working arrangements in the hopes of achieving greater work-life balance.

In addition to the support for the nation’s mental well-being, Forward SG also aims to aid families through greater accessibility of public housing.

Concerns surrounding public housing were raised during Forward SG’s active view collection stage. There, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee “acknowledged rising interest rates, which led to rising resale flat prices and housing loans.”

With this in view, the shift to support families will include a push for affordable and fair public housing with a “good social mix”, which historically has meant a variety in socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. The new classification framework of Build-to-Order (BTO) flats, which was announced on Aug 20, is one method used to ensure that.

During the youth conversation, Minister Desmond Lee also mentioned subsidies as a way to keep BTO flats affordable. 

READ: Youth Conversation on Public Housing – Our Homes, Our Future 

Alongside the changes to public housing, families can also look forward to increased support for parents of infants. 

This involves the exploration of further increases to paid parental leave, which was previously capped for fathers at two weeks. 

As per past increase plans, this leave will be boosted to four weeks of Government-Paid Paternity Leave. This change will be available for eligible fathers of children born from Jan 1, 2024, onwards. 

The Government also anticipates the expansion of centre-based infant care places and childminding service options to further meet the needs of parents with young children.

Families with children with developmental and special education needs will also see enhanced support in the future. Necessary support, which includes early intervention, education, and care services, will be made more affordable.

4. Enabling seniors to age well

With one in four Singaporeans anticipated to be 65 or older by 2030, the Government aims to support this demographic through enabling them to age well. 

This will be done through Healthier SG and Age Well SG, which ultimately aim to allow seniors to age actively and independently. 

Under these programmes, active ageing will be encouraged through the expansion of the network of Active Ageing Centres and a revamp of their operations. Generally, Active Ageing Centres are offered by a variety of organisations and are drop-in centres for seniors to engage in social and recreational activities.

The community-based aged care system will also be strengthened. Living environments will be improved for accessibility, and more housing options will come with “care provisions”, alongside other community needs. 

According to the Forward SG report, seniors will also be able to retire with peace of mind through the enhancement of existing financial schemes. 

The schemes listed – the Silver Support Scheme, Matched Retirement Savings Scheme, and the Majulah Package – aim to boost the retirement funds of seniors with lower income and less wealth.

5. Empowering those in need

The report has identified two groups to focus efforts on – lower-income families and persons with disabilities.

It aims to support children from lower-income families through making preschool education more affordable and accessible, in the hopes that this will “[close] early gaps” and enable them to break the poverty cycle. 

The Government will work with community partners to provide additional support to empower low-income families to make consistent progress in their financial situations.

For persons with disabilities, support will be strengthened to make society more inclusive. This includes the creation of inclusive environments, where they can participate and live independently. They will also be encouraged to partake in lifelong learning.

6. Investing in our shared tomorrow

While the Government acknowledges the nation’s limited resources, it hopes that Singapore will be able to “deal with today’s challenges while providing a strong foundation for the future.”

In order to do this, it will prioritise climate resilience, optimisation of land, and strengthening of food and water security.

It will also focus on fiscal prudence and responsibility by focusing on the nation’s current needs while keeping an eye out for the next generation.

READ: Rising cost of living and job security among youths’ top concerns for Budget 2023

7. Doing our part as one united people

The report also highlights that the collective strength of Singapore’s society depends on “unity and how well [citizens] care for each other”.

There will be emphasis on strengthening multi-racialism and Singaporean identity through encouraging more interactions between different groups. 

READ: Diversity and inclusivity resonate most with Singaporeans at Forward SG engagements

The Government also believes there is the need to foster a “giving” culture and better connect donors and volunteers to local community needs. More avenues for civic participation will have to be created to facilitate these.

In the coming months, more information on Forward SG initiatives will be available. 

Interested members of the public can also head down to the Forward Singapore Festival, which will reach various heartland locations until January 2024. There, they can learn more about Forward SG and contribute ideas.

More details on proposed ideas and engagement opportunities are accessible on the Forward SG website.

Read more about how youths can contribute to policymaking:

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