Youths to get more say over key Singapore issues: MCCY’s Edwin Tong

The Minister has started engaging youths on issues such as race, religion and jobs via the Emerging Stronger Conversations.

Nigel Chin

Started writing for the passion. Now writing because it’s the only thing I can do.

Published: 4 September 2020, 6:43 PM

Singapore will continue to encourage youth to give voice to their dreams and aspirations, and give them a stronger say in charting their future.

That statement was made by the Minister of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Edwin Tong in Parliament on Thursday (Sep 3). It was the first time he was speaking in his new capacity since taking office in late July.

He noted that youths in Singapore want a more caring and inclusive society by reducing social inequality and improving civic participation. At the same time, this brings up more fundamental questions about the kind of social compact and politics that Singaporeans desire for the country in the long run.

Society should harness the energy of youths to bring about positive change, instead of allowing resentment and discontent to fester amongst them resulting in negative confrontation, said the Minister.

“We need to give them the space and the avenues to have conversations with older generations to implement change, whilst understanding the constraints and trade-offs that age and experience give insights to. The older generations in turn need to be patient, accepting and appreciative of differing views,” said Minister Tong.

Minister Tong also shared that youths have two broad questions – how can they secure a good future and achieve their aspirations in these turbulent times, and how can they help to realise the vision of Singapore as a more caring and inclusive society.

On youth’s aspirations, the Minister noted that youth today feel the intense competition as a result of globalisation.

However, he encouraged youths to realise that competition may not be a necessary evil, as it drives them to excel and pushes them out of their comfort zone to become a better version of themselves.

“I want our youths to know that we will support you on this journey as best as we can. Whether it is in getting work experience, facilitating job and training opportunities or skills development,” Minister Tong said.

He also highlighted a few recent efforts, such as the Youth Corps Internship Scheme by the National Youth Council (NYC) and MCCY, as well as the Asia-Ready Exposure Programme by NYC that will allow youths to acquire cross-cultural skills and understand the region better to widen their prospects and range of opportunities.

On how youth can realise their vision of Singapore becoming a caring and inclusive society, he noted that youths are already leading the way in terms of issues such as mental well-being and environmental sustainability.

He said that the government will expand the partnerships with youths on these issues.

“You have my commitment that the voices of our young people are not just heard when they cast their votes during the General Elections once every five years. We will continue to create more opportunities and avenues for youths to partner the government and society on issues that matter to them, on a regular and sustained basis,” said the Minister.

Minister Tong added that it is also crucial for youths to have a voice in the robust and constructive discussion of changing our current model of multi-racialism.

One of the ways that he has engaged with the youths since he took office is via a series of dialogues called the Emerging Stronger Conversations.

Two dialogues have already been held on Aug 22 and Aug 25.

The first dialogue touched on racism and discrimination.

Minister Tong said that youths are the future leaders of Singapore, and as such, they have a stake in shaping Singapore’s future together. He added that social norms and morals evolve over time and Singapore must not shy away from thorny issues like inclusivity, race and religion.

At the same time, he emphasised that the government does not have all the answers, and it is important to have active and constructive discourse.

Participants noted that during the session that racial and religious discrimination still exists in Singapore despite the Government’s racial harmony efforts. They also recognised the need for a more open and healthy discourse on the topic.

Minister Tong said he was heartened to hear the genuine and diverse perspectives from the participants.

“Being inclusive involved a complete mindset shift towards acceptance. All issues are intertwined, and we need to work together to explore and create solutions.

The Singapore Tapestry

[The Singapore Tapestry] If we think of Singapore society as a tapestry, it will be one woven together by a diversity of threads - some old, some new, of different colours, sizes and textures. And like a tapestry, if one thread comes loose, it will threaten the integrity of the thread next to it, and if left unchecked, will unravel the whole tapestry. It is important for all threads to co-exist in harmony and for new threads to be woven in seamlessly despite their differences, and not experience so much tension that one or more threads break. At Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth - MCCY, we aim to build a caring and inclusive society, regardless of age, race, religion, background. The youths of today will undoubtedly want to have a bigger say in how we shape the future because it IS their future. They are concerned not only about immediate bread and butter issues, but also about the broader societal issues - climate change, constant competition and caring communities. What this generation can do and should do is to help them reach their personal and collective potential, so that they can create a more beautiful Singapore tapestry. In this, we stand united. Read my full speech in Parliament to find out how we are supporting the leaders of tomorrow: #SGUnited #SingaporeTogether #EmergingStronger

Posted by Edwin Tong on Thursday, September 3, 2020

The second dialogue on Aug 25 touched on jobs, economy and future preparedness. Participants from the sessions noted society experiencing high levels of anxiety due to the loss of jobs or uncertainties of the future, and asked for the government to try and provide equal opportunities for all.

Minister Tong agreed that the strain and stressors of life, including employment, could affect one’s mental well-being negatively, and the government has been looking into it. He also assured the participants that everyone’s fears were the same in this difficult time.

“The government and citizens need to work closely together to weather the current crisis,” he said.

He added that engagements between the government and citizens ought to be improved, while acknowledging that blind spots do exist, and that he will continue to seek youth perspectives through such dialogues and other suitable platforms.

For more information on the Emerging Stronger Conversations, head here.

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