Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Budget 2022 debate: Degrees with 5-year validity period and 'Permanent Growth Dividend' for citizens among proposals by MPs

SINGAPORE — Issuing university degrees with a validity of five years to encourage lifelong learning and giving Singaporeans a "Permanent Growth Dividend" tied to the country's economic success were among the suggestions raised by parliamentarians of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Budget 2022 debate: Degrees with 5-year validity period and 'Permanent Growth Dividend' for citizens among proposals by MPs
On the second day of debates on Budget 2022, 32 Members of Parliament from both sides of the aisle addressed the House on a broad range of issues.
  • MPs spent nearly nine hours debating the Budget in Parliament 
  • University degrees with a validity of five years were among some of the suggestions raised by PAP MPs
  • Other suggestions included introducing a limit on cases handled by social workers and greater support for the middle-income workers
  • The Government should also consider lowering the minimum age for SkillsFuture, one MP said  

SINGAPORE — Issuing university degrees with a validity of five years to encourage lifelong learning and giving Singaporeans a "Permanent Growth Dividend" tied to the country's economic success were among the suggestions raised by parliamentarians of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

On Tuesday (March 1), the second day of the Budget debate, 32 Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides of the aisle as well as Nominated MPs spent nearly nine hours addressing the House on a broad range of issues.

Topics raised by PAP MPs included resourcing of charities, providing relief for overworked social workers and support for gig economy workers, strengthening Singapore's energy security, helping middle-income families and workers, as well as addressing workplace grievances and mental health. 

MPs from the Workers’ Party (WP) also spoke, with party chair Sylvia Lim raising concerns about Singapore’s ability to innovate due to Singapore's "tight" rules-abiding culture.

DEGREES WITH A TIME STAMP  

Mr Ang Wei Neng, an MP for West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC), proposed what he described as a “radical idea” of putting a time stamp on the degrees conferred by Singapore's institutes of higher learning. 

Graduates would have to attend courses to upgrade themselves every five years and failure to do so would result in their degrees lapsing. This means that they would not be able to claim the degree as part of their qualification if this happens.

He made this suggestion against the backdrop of rapid industry changes, he said, where skill sets and real-world experiences could trump university degrees, as he urged universities to evolve in order to stay relevant.  

“These days, even without a university degree, skill sets, personal experiences and knowledge can take a person very far,” Mr Ang added. 

Instead of relying on academic qualifications, there is a need for continuous and lifelong learning, and universities “need to take on this role”. 

“If we are serious about continuously training and lifelong learning, we have to be radical about transformation. It may not and should not happen overnight. But, we have to start to transform our institutes of higher learning.” 

'WE WIN AND LOSE AS A TEAM'

Sembawang GRC MP Mariam Jaafar called on the Government to implement a "Permanent Growth Dividend" tied to the country’s economic growth or Budget surplus that is given to citizens.

These payouts could be tiered based on wealth or income and delivered through a mixture of cash and monetary contributions tothe  Central Provident Fund (CPF), the national social security system.

Ms Mariam said that this broad-based distribution would “give every Singaporean an additional stake in the nation’s economic progress, reinforcing that we win and lose as a team”.

It will also provide another way to enhance financial security and mitigate inequality for residents whose fortunes do not reflect the nation’s success.

She noted that Singapore has rolled out one-off payments before, such as the SG Bonus in 2018 and the Growth Dividend in 2011. 

"It may feel moot to even be discussing this in the context of consecutive years of Budget deficits, but I hope the (finance) minister might consider this as we move forward," Ms Mariam said. 

WHAT LABOUR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT SAY

Mr Desmond Choo, MP for Tampines GRC and an assistant secretary-general at the National Trades Union Congress, urged the Government to consider lowering the minimum age for the SkillsFuture programme. 

Singaporeans aged 25 and above may use SkillsFuture Credits to offset fees for courses to reskill and upskill. 

Mr Choo said that "Generation Covid" — a moniker referring to young adults coming of age during the pandemic — would benefit from the scheme, especially those who have graduated but find themselves unable to tap growth opportunities due to a mismatch of skills. 

He also suggested increasing subsidies for certain SkillsFuture courses that would help young people venture into growth sectors.

Mr Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab, a Nominated MP and veteran union leader, called for greater support for middle-income workers and appealed for the Government to review the income criteria of various support schemes such as kindergarten and childcare subsidies, as well as CPF housing grants. 

“Let us also not forget the group of lower-middle-income workers, who are earning slightly more than lower-income individuals, but their families are also struggling with increasing daily expenses, yet they are losing access to government support schemes as they have just fallen short slightly of the income criteria of these support schemes,” he urged. 

OVERWORKED SOCIAL WORKERS 

Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng suggested that the Government introduce a cap on the number of cases that social workers at Family Service Centres (FSCs) handle.

These centres under the Ministry of Social and Family Development serve low-income and vulnerable individuals and families who need support in meeting their social needs.

Mr Ng said that active cases handled by the centres have skyrocketed during the pandemic, increasing from 17,000 each quarter to 20,000, and cases are getting more complex, thus resulting in heavy caseloads and exhaustion for social workers. 

He shared a quote from a social worker he spoke to: “If you ever want to know what a social worker’s mind feels like, imagine a browser with 2,857 tabs open. All the time.”

Mr Ng said: “We need to do more for our social workers, who are just as much at the front line of this pandemic and are in a tight situation like our healthcare workers.”

YOUNG GIG WORKERS 

Making a mention of the 2021 TODAY Youth Survey, Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin noted that 55 per cent of 18- to 35-year-olds felt a dent in their financial prospects as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. 

She said that she knows of young people who have turned to the gig economy as a means of earning an income, but they have faced challenges, specifically musicians and deejays who work at nightlife institutions who are unable to return to their jobs due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Ms Nadia appealed to the Government to consider introducing balanced measures that limit the risks of disease transmission when performing on stage at food-and-beverage establishments, so that live music performances may resume. 

Related topics

Budget 2022 social worker SkillsFuture university degree dividend Youth nightlife

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa