Post-Budget 2023 Youth Dialogue: Financial literacy, rising living costs and household incentives among top concerns
Issues about Budget 2023 addressed by youths include rising cost of living, fiscal prudence and incentives for parenthood.
The rising costs in Singapore and how inclusive the measures announced in Budget 2023 towards different groups of people and sectors were among the top concerns youths had.
These were raised during a dialogue, where youths were invited to share their sentiments and thoughts about Budget 2023, held last Tuesday (Mar 28).
Jointly organised by the National Youth Council (NYC), the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), the Post-Budget 2023 Youth Dialogue included a panel discussion that was led by moderator Rishi Budhrani, Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry Alvin Tan, and NYC INSPIRIT Youth Leader Sabrina Soh.
Over 180 youths participated physically at Singapore Management University (SMU) and virtually through a livestream.
Other issues raised during the dialogue include what the Government will do to help Singaporeans tackle rising costs in a post-COVID-19 environment, raising a family in Singapore, and whether they will be better equipped financially for the future.
Here are some takeaways from the dialogue:
1. It is important for youths to be future-ready and more aware of Budget measures
In a sentiment poll done by NYC, 85 per cent of youths were aware of Budget 2023, but only one in four of respondents were aware of specific details of the Budget.
Mr Tan admitted that the Budget might not necessarily be interesting to today’s youths, but it is important to care because they are the ones that would have to help Singapore navigate through its future.
Some of the areas that were included in Budget 2023 consisted of education, employment opportunities, cost of living, sustainability, mental wellbeing, and support for the vulnerable.
“I think all aspects of this…are critical,” Mr Tan shared. “Youths represent about 25 per cent of our population, but 100 per cent of our future. You would have to tell us: where do you want to chart the next bound of Singapore?”
The sentiment of youths being a huge part of shaping Singapore’s future was shared by Ms Loh as well. As a youth in her 30s, she has observed how people her age are starting to become more interested in the idea of starting a family.
To her, gaining knowledge about how the Budget will improve support for youths that wish to start a family in the future or are already raising a family with young children stood out the most.
2. The Assurance Package was increased to benefit majority of Singaporeans and households
One youth participant from Eunoia Junior College spoke of how students are concerned over the rising costs of living by the time they reach adulthood, and asked how the Government balances fiscal prudences with the immediate cost of living prices.
Fiscal prudence refers to a Government’s ability to make good and careful use of their budget and spendings, while cost of living is inclusive of basic household necessities that are being priced higher than in the previous years.
Ms Indranee addressed how there are three factors that contribute towards why the cost of living has gone up in Singapore: the disrupted supply chains as a result of COVID-19, Russia’s invasion on Ukraine that impacted energy prices and inflation all-round, and the planned increase of Singapore’s Goods & Services Tax (GST).
“This was a planned increase…so we were able to set aside surpluses which we put into an Assurance Package, and we sized it such that it would cover the majority of Singaporeans,” she said.
The amount given to Singaporeans under the Assurance Package should cover lower income households for 10 years worth of increases, and the majority of that of other households for about five years.
There are also household packages for household support such as the CDC Vouchers Scheme, which was first announced in Budget 2021 and 2022 to help with general inflation. The scheme has now been expanded upon in Budget 2023, where the vouchers are now added to the Assurance Package.
Alongside the Assurance Package, the Government also launched and further improved the permanent GST Voucher (GSTV) scheme to help absorb GST for public funded education and healthcare.
3. Starting families will be encouraged and made easier for young married couples
In response to questions about the Government’s more inclusive initiatives and how effective cash incentives are for parenthood and marriage, Ms Indranee noted how the Government used to think that simply providing cash incentives would help increase parenthood and Singapore’s fertility rate.
They later realised that cash incentives alone are “just not cutting it”, as the total fertility rate is currently at its lowest of 1.05.
When talking to parents, she observed that while cash support like the increased Baby Bonus cash gifts is a big factor towards couples deciding to raise a child, other factors like stress and work-life balance make them hesitate to begin parenting.
According to Ms Indranee, Budget 2023 will set up “flexible work arrangements to allow families with the flexibility” for a stable work-life balance.
One such measure is the Government-Paid Paternity Leave, which “makes it easier for dads to be able to take leave” and “sends a strong signal that parenting should be a shared responsibility”.
There will also be priority for young married couples and families with children when applying for Built-to-Order (BTO) or resale flats to turn into their first homes, especially if they are first-time families.
When applying for BTO flats, first-time families are able to ballot twice, thus increasing their chances of securing a home to raise their family in. Eligible first-time families will also have their CPF Housing Grants increased when purchasing resale flats.
With all these measures put in place, parents would be granted extra priority and no longer have to “choose between family or work”.
4. Individuals in Singapore have a part to play in managing their own finances
Marcus from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) asked whether there are any initiatives put in place or are planned in the future for youths to be more financially literate, and how youths can ensure that their financial decisions place more focus on their needs than wants.
Although financial support is given to Singaporeans, some youths think that it is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with rising costs due to financial decisions. They would like to know how to become more prudent in saving up, as well as how to manage their finances better.
Mr Tan answered that financial literacy is something that can be taught in education institutes like Secondary Schools and Institutes of Higher Learning, where there should be some financial literacy courses available for students to sign up for.
He advised youths to visit resources like MoneySense Singapore, MoneyOwl, and The Woke Salaryman, which all educate and guide Singaporeans on not just financial literacy, but also make rational and practical decisions on how to spend their budget.
“However much that the Government can provide support…ultimately it’s how you also balance your own budget,” Mr Tan said.
More information about Budget 2023 can be found on the Ministry for Finance’s website.