Over the past few months, situations globally and domestically have changed drastically, but one thing is certain: "Singapore is still a little red dot in an uncertain world," said President Halimah Yacob on Monday, August 24.
In a speech before the first session of the 14th Parliament of Singapore, the president outlined the government’s plans to help the country to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world.
"Jobs, support for workers and businesses, economic transformation and sustainable growth will be the government’s top agenda for the next few years."
President Halimah stressed that Singapore needs to be "more resilient and nimble than others in responding to change."
She added that the government recognise the fears and anxieties about jobs that Singaporeans have today.
"COVID-19 has amplified the pressures caused by a slowing global economy in recent years, especially on certain groups of workers – such as our lower-wage workers, mature workers and mid-career Singaporeans with heavier financial commitments and families to support."
Jobs will remain the government's top priority for the next few years. "Keeping people in work is the best way to help them take care of their families, and to keep their skills current until the economy improves."
Singapore will also continue to look out for the lower-wage and mature workers, many of whom are also essential workers who have been keeping Singapore going during the crisis. "We are also making a concerted effort to help workers in their 40s and 50s, by matching them to suitable jobs and SkillsFuture programmes. I urge employers to see mid-career Singaporeans as valuable assets, and provide them with opportunities and training for new jobs," President Halimah said.
In her speech, the president highlighted a potentially divisive issue closely connected to the Singaporean identity – that is, the sense of competition for jobs from work pass holders.
"This has become a major source of anxiety, especially among mid-career Singaporeans," she said, adding that the government will take steps to address the concerns, which "not only touch on matters of livelihood, but also on our sense of identity and belonging".
President Halimah stressed, "Our strong education system and training pathways have produced a workforce that can compete against the best in the world. We will work with employers to further strengthen the capabilities of our workforce in every field, and ensure that firms treat Singaporeans fairly when they recruit or retrench workers."
However, she also noted that Singapore must not turn inwards and away from the world.
"We must keep our hearts open to those who come from beyond our shores. We should continue to welcome and integrate those who can contribute to Singapore, and improve our lives and our children’s future," the president said.
"Our Singaporean identity has been formed and strengthened not by excluding those who arrive later, but by successive arrivals adding to the richness of our society."