How youths in Singapore and Malaysia can prepare for a changing economic future

With issues like sustainability and inflation increasing in relevance, future business leaders from both countries have to form strong ties and work to tackle these issues together.

Nicki Chan

Probably that one person singing in the shower at 2am.

Published: 15 June 2022, 3:17 PM

Today, issues like inflation, unemployment and sustainability have become more pressing than ever. Youths must be prepared to adapt to an uncertain economic future, and as future leaders, to play a part in tackling these issues. 

To engage youths to better understand these issues and their implications for businesses, the National Youth Council (NYC) organised a dialogue, Causeway Conversations: Preparing Youths for the Future Economy, over Zoom on Jun 9. 

A collaboration with the Perdana Fellows Alumni Association (PFAA) of Malaysia, the dialogue featured notable business leaders from Malaysia and Singapore, who shared their thoughts on what the future economy will look like and how youths can prepare for it. 

Here are some key takeaways from the panel dialogue.

Neighbours should support each other more

The panel was in strong agreement that it is natural for both Singapore and Malaysia to work together and support each other, given their close bilateral relationship.

Mr Khairul Anwar, Director of Southeast Asia at Enterprise Singapore, suggested that both countries, with their complementary strengths, can work together to build internal stability in times of external instability. 

“All of us could really learn how to build consensus, to form coalitions, to test and scale new ideas. And that’s where Singapore and Malaysia come into play,” he said. 

His thoughts were echoed by Mr Jalil Rasheed, former group CEO of the Berjaya Corporation in Malaysia. Mr Jalil spoke about the Russia-Ukraine conflict and how it has caused food prices across the globe to rise, voicing his fears about the “snowballing effect”. 

He said: “I do feel that geopolitical issues will feature permanently in the economy. And so I think from a risk mitigation perspective, both countries need to think about how to be self-sustainable.”

He went on to explain that in times of crisis, countries have tended towards looking after themselves first before helping their allies. 

“There’s nothing wrong with that as every country should look after its own citizens. But you do need to be prepared for if someone shuts the door on you one day,” said Mr Jalil. 

He added that he wishes to see more cooperation between Singapore and Malaysia due to the cultural and geopolitical similarities between the two countries.

“I think we both realised that we need each other to prosper so that we will do collectively better,” he said.

In-depth awareness of pertinent issues like sustainability is needed

We’ve all had countless reminders of how we can incorporate sustainability into our own lives to avert the climate crisis. Likewise, businesses in Singapore and Malaysia have to consider the impact they have on the environment and undertake sustainable solutions to reduce this impact. 

As the future leaders of the economy, it is up to youths in both countries to gain awareness on what they can do when they enter these leadership roles, said Mr Jalil.

Mentioning the Russia-Ukraine conflict’s impact on food prices and the recent hot weather driven by climate change, Mr Khairul also observed that the economy is moving into “a period of flux”. 

He said: “The status quo is no longer the map that we want to use going forward. One thing that is clear for youths is that the future needs to be created. New rules and boundaries need to be introduced in areas such as trade and climate change.” 

Retooling and identifying skill gaps is a must

All the speakers on the panel agreed that youths must always keep up with the economy’s latest demands and upskill accordingly in order to have a successful career in future. 

Ms Han PingPing, founder of Singapore startup aloha, shared her own hacks that helped her become a successful entrepreneur. Calling it the 3M model, she explained that the components of her framework are mastery, maverick and mentorship.

According to Ms Han, mastery of one’s job is attained by putting in at least 10,000 hours of work into the desired discipline, or when one is earning a salary of at least $10,000.


10,000 hours of work is equivalent to about five years of working at a regular nine-to-five job. PHOTO CREDIT: CHRISTIN HUME VIA UNSPLASH


Upon attaining mastery, one can then “get creative and break rules” by taking up new skills or finding new job opportunities overseas to become a maverick, suggested Ms Han. 

To acquire the last component, one should also search for opportunities ahead by exploring side hustles and volunteering opportunities.

“If we are able to secure those sorts of opportunities, it really opens our apertures and how we appreciate things,” said Ms Han. 

Corporations also have to identify skill gaps and address them before it is too late, Mr Jalil added. 

“This has to be done continuously, through job creation and training programmes,” he said. 

Businesses should find better solutions with empathy

Doing things the way we’ve always done them will not work for the future economy.

Instead, businesses should learn to design new solutions with empathy, as different stakeholders are affected by the same issue in different ways, said Ms Khor Yu Leng, Southeast Asian research head at Segi Enam Advisors in Malaysia.

For example, while many in Singapore and Malaysia may not feel extremely hard hit by inflation, others are badly affected by it. 

Ms Khor also pointed out that many businesses now have self-serving business models, which can be seen in phenomena like greenwashing

She believes that these business solutions will not be sustainable in the long term, as it is crucial for all businesses to put in genuine effort to combat the issues we collectively face as a society.

“We all really have to work together to find the most realistic and honest solutions,” she said.

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