Youths concerned over GST hike, job market: 5 takeaways from post-Budget 2022 engagement
Major youth concerns that were addressed included the impact from the GST hike and the future of the job economy.
Ways to mitigate the impact of carbon taxes, how the impending GST hike will affect households, and the availability of job opportunities in the future were among the chief concerns youth had from the Budget 2022.
These insights were shared at an engagement session held by the Ministry of Finance and National Youth Council on Wednesday (Mar 30) at Suntec City.
Named Budget 2022 – Conversations on Our Way Forward, the session focused around a panel dialogue that addressed concerns raised through feedback and sentiments of 1,200 youths and questions posed by virtual and on-site attendees.
Two separate engagement sessions were also held earlier with youths from the Keat Hong and Bishan-Toa Payoh estates. Similar concerns were also raised at those sessions.
The National Youth Council said 90 per cent of the youths it engaged with were aware of the announcements, with more than half concerned about the rising cost of living. Among those aware about the announcements, 60 per cent welcomed the Household Support Package and Assurance Package, while one in three felt the support schemes do not sufficiently cushion the impact of the GST hike on Singapore households.
Below are five takeaways from the post-Budget 2022 engagement session.
1. The goal and mitigating impact of raising carbon taxes
As part of Singapore’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions in 2050, it was announced that the carbon tax will increase incrementally, reaching $50 to $80 per tonne by 2030.
Though youths were mostly supportive and confident in Singapore’s ability to hit the net zero target, concerns were raised about whether incentives for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint were insufficient and how citizens will be impacted.
Reiterating the purpose of increasing the carbon tax, Ms Indranee said: “The goal is to nudge, or at a later stage push or even shove, businesses to produce and manufacture in a carbon-efficient way.”
Understanding that the transition process for businesses would be costly, she said government subsidies will be provided so as to mitigate any trickle down effect to the consumers.
In addition, to support households in adjusting to the changes, part of the carbon tax revenue will be used in efforts such as providing additional U-save rebates.
2. Trade offs posed by the GST hike
In the years to come, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will also see a hike, increasing from 7 per cent to 8 per cent in 2023, and further to 9 per cent in 2024.
Though some youths recognised the need for the increase and welcomed the staggered approach, others questioned the need to increase GST and suggested that revenue could be generated from other means.
Ms Indranee said a major challenge in the consideration over the raising of GST was the tradeoffs.
Pointing out that Singapore’s ageing population meant that the amount spent on medical care will increase in time to come, she said this would affect the expenditure that could be channelled to other areas.
Nonetheless, though it was inevitable to increase personal income, property and vehicle taxes, Ms Indranee said the revenue generated will not only support healthcare expenditures but also all Singaporeans, especially lower and middle income households.
“Thanks to the Assurance package, the GST is effectively delayed by five years,” she said.
3. The increasing support for mental wellbeing in youths
To address the worsening mental wellbeing in youths since the onset of COVID-19, the Interagency Taskforce on Mental Health and Well-being was established to enhance mental health and social services in the community.
In conjunction with the rising issue, youths also inquired what ways were available to help such vulnerable members of society.
Mr Tan said the task force would be transitioning from its youth-centric network to a national scale.
“This will expand our peer support networks and increase access to online resources for private and public sectors,” he said.
Beyond this, he pointed out initiatives like the National Youth Fund, Young ChangeMakers Grant, Youth Action Challenge that youths could use to take action.
Answering a question posed during the session if there would be increments to insurance claims for mental illness, Mr Tan said public consultations would begin soon through an agency task force to get input from the community.
4. How the job market and economy will shift
Due to disruptions and uncertainties in the economy due to COVID-19, a major concern from youths had to do with job security and the future of their work.
And with Singapore’s announced effort to transition into a green economy, an extended concern was the future of non-finance and non-taxable jobs such as the gig economy.
Furthermore, SkillsFuture Singapore has committed to a transition programme to help upskill workers in preparation for the new green jobs invented that would require green skills.
Ms Faridah emphasised that in order for one’s wages to be raised, and to find employment in the new job areas invented, there would be a need to upgrade oneself.
5. Ways youths can complement the Government’s effort
Rounding off the session, the panellists also urged youths to take action for any desired causes.
Mr Wong said that youths could utilise the grants available and continue their feedback with ministers or organisation leaders to come to a consensus.
“After attending these dialogues, you can go back to explain to your social circles and communicate the thought processes and challenges,” he said.
Mr Tan also brought up volunteering opportunities where youths can be an advocate and for those who have projects in mind, to tap on grants and initiatives which will help to defray costs.
To address prevailing youth concerns, NYC said in the release it will work closely with government agencies to raise awareness on the suite of support measures.