Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong outlined a new vision for Singapore’s social compact during his speech at the Institute of Policy Studies’ 35th-anniversary conference on Monday (12 June).
The proposed approach represents a shift towards a more holistic, inclusive understanding of success and societal roles.
During the conference, Mr Wong emphasised that success must be defined less by material wealth and more by individual purpose and fulfilment.
“Engagements with Singaporeans showed that it is less about the pot of gold at the end of the road and more about our sense of purpose and fulfilment along the way,” Mr Wong stated.
The new social compact goes beyond celebrating only those at the top of traditional career paths. Instead, it recognises a range of valuable contributions, from parental roles and caregiving to diverse talents in the arts, sports, and service sectors. Mr Wong insisted that society should equally embrace these diverse roles.
“The refreshed social compact must be more inclusive and cannot be limited to a few selected pathways of advancement, with some given higher status than others,” said Mr Mr Wong.
“We must provide many more ways for our diverse talents to be the best possible version of themselves.”
In addition to this new approach to success, Mr Wong highlighted the need for a revamped social support system. This system aims to assure those in the middle group and the vulnerable, providing support for the unemployed, lower-income families, vulnerable groups, and seniors.
Particular attention is given to support for those unemployed in meeting their day-to-day needs while undergoing skills training and job search.
For lower-income families, the support aims to empower them to uplift their wages and close early gaps in their children’s lives. The vulnerable, including persons with disabilities and seniors, will be provided with long-term care, suitable living arrangements, and retirement needs.
In his address, Mr Wong also called for a renewed sense of social solidarity. He noted that while overall trust in Singapore remains high, there is scope for improvement at the local and neighbourhood levels.
The deputy prime minister suggested that this could be achieved through the promotion of inter-group interactions and the expansion of the common ground shared by Singaporeans.
He emphasised, “We want every group to celebrate their own cultures and traditions… At the same time, we encourage everyone to look beyond your own communities, to come together, and to expand the common ground we share as Singaporeans.”
The ideas Mr Wong spoke about echo the key focus of the Forward Singapore initiative, which Mr Wong launched last year.
This initiative will conclude with the publication of a report in mid-2023, outlining policy recommendations for Singapore’s refreshed social compact and suggestions for different societal segments to contribute towards shared national goals.
The development announced by Mr Wong in his speech precedes the upcoming Presidential Election due by 13 September and a rumored General Election later this year.