Opening Remarks by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Young NTUC LIT DISCOvery Virtual Symposium on 10 June 2020.
Welcome to LIT DISCOvery 2020!
This symposium is held in extraordinary times. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned into the biggest global crisis of our times. With more than 6 million people infected, and almost 400,000 deaths. The global economy is also headed for its worst recession since the Great Depression. Countries around the world are doing their best to manage the public health situation and the economic consequences.
In Singapore, to protect lives, we implemented the circuit breaker and safe management measures. With everyone playing their part, we have brought new community cases down. The situation in our migrant worker dormitories is also under control. This has enabled us to gradually re-open our society and economy.
We also moved swiftly and decisively to support our businesses, and protect livelihoods. Our economy is projected to contract by 4% to 7% this year. Many jobs are at stake. Over four Budgets, we have committed almost $100 billion to help companies, workers and households.
For our youths and young adults, this is a challenging time to come of age. But I am glad that you are taking this in your stride. Many of you have come forward to help vulnerable segments in our communities; encourage our frontline workers; support our migrant workers; and to play your part in this fight. You have remained resilient in the face of adversity and I thank you for playing your part in helping our communities through this crisis.
Providing the strongest support to our youth
The road ahead will be difficult and fraught with uncertainty. You have my assurance that you will not be alone in this journey. We are determined that there will be no “lost generation” in Singapore as a result of COVID-19. The Labour Movement, our companies and the Government will walk with you on this journey. We can overcome this difficult phase together.
The Government is making unprecedented effort to protect jobs through wage support. We are committing almost $24 billion through the Jobs Support Scheme, with more support for those in sectors which have been hardest hit. Your employers should take this period to transform their businesses, and also train and equip you with new skills.
But we are realistic that wage support can only go so far. Some of you are still in employment, but have suffered significant wage loss. We have strengthened temporary assistance to help you, such as through the COVID-19 Support Grant and Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS).
Despite our best efforts, some of you have lost your jobs and are seeking employment. Depending on the sector you are in, the labour market will not be picking up anytime soon. We’ve launched an ambitious plan to create almost 100,000 jobs, traineeships and skills upgrading opportunities, as part of the SGUnited Jobs & Skills Package, to meet your immediate needs and those of our fresh job entrants
For the cohort entering the workforce in 2020, the joy of graduation has been tempered by the weak job market. We will be providing greater access to jobs and traineeship opportunities in growth areas for you. I hope you can make the best use of this time to learn and gain meaningful experiences, to better prepare for the upturn. The pandemic might have set back your plans temporarily, but the virus will not stop you from fulfilling your potential.
The Labour Movement is an important tripartite partner in this journey, implementing some of the Budget support schemes.
- Matching those who lost their jobs to new opportunities, through their Job Security Council.
- Providing greater resources for jobseekers, including through career fairs and today’s symposium.
- Working closely with companies to upskill their workers, and providing additional assistance to union members who have fallen on hard times.
The Labour Movement, our companies, and the Government – we are here for you. But you must also be there for yourself. Besides your career goals, you must also take care of yourself, for nothing is more important than your health and mental well-being.
Thriving in a Post-COVID world
This pandemic will fade at some point, but the world that emerges from this crisis will be a very different one. COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation, exposed global supply chain vulnerabilities, and changed how we work. The virus is re-shaping societies and social compacts. Whether we are ready for this future will depend on each of you.It will depend on what you do today, to prepare for tomorrow.
What will set you for success is the willingness to seize the initiative and make the most of what you have. Each generation that came before us weathered numerous challenges. Each time, they faced adversity with fortitude. Each time, they came together as one people, took care of one another, and emerge stronger with a renewed sense of unity and purpose.
You too can turn anxiety into action, and build a better tomorrow. By equipping yourself with skills and experiences for the future, so that you are ready to soar when the economy recovers. By volunteering and making a difference to those around you, especially our seniors and the vulnerable among us. By contributing your passion and ideas to shape our shared future through initiatives such as the SG Youth Action Plan.
You can start by taking action today. Make the best of this symposium. This symposium is going to be ‘lit’. I learnt that from the millennials, this means ‘Awesome’. I am learning something everyday. I hope that all of you can learn, adjust and thrive in this new normal. So I wish you all the very best and learn as much as possible.
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