Forward Singapore - Progress update

            Findings from the Forward Singapore engagement

Empower: Economy and Jobs

Equip: Education and Lifelong Learning

Care: Health and Social Support

Build: Home and Living Environment

Steward: Environmental and Fiscal Sustainability

Unite: Singapore Identity


An RP student sharing his views on education in Singapore. (Credit: MCI / Tan Chin Fan)
A student from Republic Polytechnic sharing his views on education in Singapore

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Empower: Economy and Jobs

Concerns about job and training opportunities

1. Singaporeans shared their concerns about staying relevant and competitive in today’s economy, and having sufficient job opportunities that match their aspirations.

Younger workers wanted good training opportunities that can help them advance in their careers, even while they pursue other life goals like starting a family.


“In the next five years, I want to diversify my exposure across markets and products… I am open to being a manager or going overseas, depending on opportunities that come up.”

– Junior management associate at engagement with management associates on jobs and the economy, 7 Oct 2022 

3. Mature workers were more concerned about job stability. They were afraid of becoming less employable, and of pivoting to new sectors, due to age and a lack of relevant skills and experience. They also sought the assurance of being able to meet their retirement needs in their golden years.

“We need companies to change their mindset about hiring older workers. We have the skillsets and experience to do the job well, but we are not being given the chance.”

– Mature worker at engagement with PMETs on jobs and the economy, 2 Nov 2022

Workers with caregiving responsibilities hoped for both job security and work-life balance. For some, family was their foremost priority, and their key consideration when choosing a job.  

“Hoping to climb up one more level or two. … I mean young that time you can chiong (charge ahead) but now family is much more important… My parents are getting old, so not much time to spend with them.” 

– Middle-aged worker at engagement with PMETs on jobs and the economy, 2 Nov 2022

Minister Tan See Leng engaged in a small group discussion with PMEs.
Minister Tan See Leng engaging in a small group discussion with PMEs

Challenges of upskilling

5. Many shared practical challenges to upgrading their skills, such as the opportunity cost of forgoing their regular income and having to balance training with the other demands on their time.

6. Many hoped to see a stronger culture of lifelong learning in Singapore, with lower barriers for workers to take up training programmes.

“I don’t have the time nor the energy to go and upskill myself after work… we should look into having courses with shorter durations and closer to work or home, because right now the courses are mostly at night after work. But I will need to go home to pick up my kids, and the childcare is only until 7pm at best, so I will need to rush here and there.”

– Middle-aged worker at engagement at Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), 18 Oct 2022

7. Others called for greater employer support and resources, such as career guidance and advice, to help workers chart their careers.

Concerns about job disruption

8. Some worried about losing their jobs or their ability to work in the face of disruptions or setbacks. They were afraid that they would be left to fend for themselves. They expressed that with stronger societal support, it would be less daunting for them to get back on their feet.

“[The job search] was a pretty stressful experience... Previously company was closing down and [I] was told to leave. I had gone through 10 interviews. I have to find what is comfortable for me with different commitments that I have. No income scares me as I cannot find a new job when the job is ending.”

– Middle-aged worker at engagement at Lifelong Learning Institute, 14 Oct 2022


Participants at the Alliance for Action for Lower-wage Workers workshop exchanging ideas.
Participants at the Alliance for Action for Lower-wage Workers workshop exchanging ideas

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Equip: Education and Lifelong Learning

Social Mobility

1. Singaporeans recognised that for our children to do well later in life, they need sound values, a supportive family environment, and access to good educational opportunities from an early age.

2. Many hoped that those who have benefited from the system can pay it forward, to uplift the rest of society, especially children from less advantaged backgrounds.

Defining success

3. Singaporeans felt that our current definitions of merit and success are too narrow. Traditional yardsticks of success are still emphasised. These include performing well academically and securing a white-collar career, which is seen as better-paying and more prestigious. 

“The idea of success has been passed down many generations. It has not changed since our parents and grandparents have defined the word… We hope that teachers, as the forefront of education, give kids the freedom, capacity, and will to express their own definition of success.”

– Participant at engagement at Singapore University of Social Sciences, 27 Sep 2022

4. Others shared that there are stark disparities in rewards and recognition across the job market. This disadvantages lower-wage workers and those who choose less conventional career paths.

5. Those who work with their “hands” (e.g. technicians) or “hearts” (e.g. in service and community care sectors) wanted to be recognised for their contributions, make a decent living and progress in their respective fields.

“Unless there is an alternative to how to quantify and qualify skills, we will still fall back on grades as a measure.

– Feedback collected at engagement with public officers, 21 Sep 2022

6. Many wanted to see our society embrace broader, different definitions of success – they felt that this would encourage Singaporeans to be more innovative, creative, and willing to take risks. 

7. Many shared stories of their own pursuit of success, such as following their passion and making a career switch, staying curious with an open mind, or investing their energies into contributing back to society.

“It is important to be satisfied with what you are doing. Primary and Secondary school trained us to work towards scoring 'A's and being in the top class, which gave us a lot of stress. Now, we view ourselves as successful because we are doing what we enjoy and can see ourselves continuing to do it in the future.”

– Student at engagement at the Singapore Institute of Technology, 29 Sep 2022 

Minister Chan Chung Sing interacting with participants at the Forward Singapore Equip pillar engagement on education and lifelong learning on 19 November 2022. (Credit: MCI / Jon)
Minister Chan Chun Sing interacting with participants at the Forward Singapore Equip pillar engagement on education and lifelong learning

 diverse opportunities

8. Singaporeans hoped to see a society where all can progress throughout life, from gaining greater industry exposure in school, to embracing an ethos of lifelong learning and upskilling throughout one’s career.


“Everyone learns differently and has different abilities, hence I feel that it is important to include everyone despite their learning abilities, and ensure that they will be given equal opportunities despite their differences.” 

– Student at engagement at Temasek Polytechnic, 16 Aug 2022

9. Singaporeans agreed that we need a whole-of-society effort to empower persons with disabilities (PwDs) to fully realise their potential and participate as integral and contributing members of society. Having more supportive hiring practices, PwD-friendly workspaces, and specially designed job scopes that leverage the strengths of PwD employees, would go a long way towards realising that.

Participants exchanged views on their aspirations for education and lifelong learning at the Equip pillar engagement.
Participants exchanging views on their aspirations for education and lifelong learning at the Forward Singapore Equip pillar engagement

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Care: Health and Social Support

Support for families

1. Singaporeans raised challenges they face in starting and raising a family, including access to affordable housing, coping with increased cost of living, striking a balance between work and family, and meeting the caregiving needs of their young children and elderly parents.

“I work with young couples, and often they grapple with housing issues and work. Which also means they may not have the capacity to look into childcare development. Hence, it is important for various agencies to join hands to support and lighten the load of these young couples.” 

– Feedback collected at engagement with social service professionals, 10 Oct 2022

2. Many participants wished to see more family-friendly workplace practices, and better sharing of parental responsibilities between husbands and wives.

“Employers who hire older workers are given incentives. The same could be considered for flexible work arrangements. Many women who have children and aged parents to look after end up sacrificing their employment. Many of them want to work, but flexible work arrangements, while promoted by the Government, are often at the decision of their heads of department. More often than not, it is not granted which leads to a loss of manpower.”

– Feedback collected at engagement with social service professionals, 10 Oct 2022


Minister Ong Ye Kung spoke at the engagement on preparing for the next bound of aged care with 250 attendees from AIC, Community Care Sector Senior Leadership and the Regional Health Systems (RHS) on 5 December 2022.
Minister Ong Ye Kung engaging attendees from the Active Ageing Centre providers on preparing for the next bound of aged care

“Childcare leave should be tagged to the number of children.”

“Employers need to understand the need for remote work.”

“There should be diaper changing stations in male toilets.”

– Feedback collected at engagement with public officers, 21 Sep 2022

Supporting vulnerable groups

3. Participants called for better support for less-advantaged families, so that pathways for upward mobility stay open to children from these backgrounds. Some called for social services to be delivered in a more seamless and family-centric way.

“Moving up the social ladder starts from going to the ground, helping these families, getting to know them, not seeing them just as a level of people, but their stories, what happened to them, their circumstances.”

– University student at engagement on social mobility with students from Institutes of Higher Learning, 15 Nov 2022

Others called for more support for children with special needs and their families, such as better access to early intervention and good educational opportunities.

5. Participants agreed that all stakeholders in society should play a part to uplift families in need, and ensure that no one is left behind.

“A takeaway from today would be the need to shift to a giving approach and assess how we may shift giving in a manner that can be sustained. For example, it would not look like a one-off occasion of doing something for the community but moving towards the community providing sustained help toward those who need it. It could look like a family taking care of 1-2 elderly individuals in the same block. If we were to shift mindsets this way, it would reduce the reliance on services and give more people the autonomy to be the change.” 

– Representative from Family Service Centre at engagement with social service professionals, 10 Oct 2022

Mental health

6. Many participants agreed that more support for mental health and wellness is needed. They called for society to break the stigma attached to mental health conditions, and to devote greater attention to mental health education and support. 

“We should place some emphasis on mental health. We place a lot of emphasis on physical health. But mental health is latent.”

– Feedback collected at engagement with public officers, 21 Sep 2022


“Everyone should be able to take mental health breaks.”

– Youth at engagement on enhancing health and support for families, 6 Nov 2022


SPS Rahayu speaking to representatives from the Women’s health and wellness groups.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary Rahayu Mahzam speaking to representatives from the Women’s health and wellness groups

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Build: Home and Living Environment

Housing aspirations

1. Participants agreed that Singapore should continue to be a home-owning society. They felt that our public housing policies should support the needs of families, prioritise genuine homeowners, and promote social cohesion. Our housing policies should also keep pace with Singaporeans’ evolving needs and aspirations.

2. At the same time, Singaporeans acknowledged our land and space constraints, and the challenge they pose to meeting our myriad housing aspirations and needs.

“On one hand, young Singaporeans expect affordable BTO prices, but on the other hand, Singaporeans expect the prices of their houses to go up so that they can sell it for a profit and upgrade to private property. I wonder how the HDB is going to balance these contrasting aspirations.

– Participant at Forward Singapore Conversation @ Pasir Ris-Punggol, 4 Dec 2022

Young adults and couples were concerned about whether they can access affordable public housing, especially given high application rates for BTO flats and a buoyant resale market. 

“Do we want to prioritise housing for first timers and new families so that they can have a home to start their own family, and at the same time, how do we weigh that against singles that may not necessarily be getting married and having kids but are still contributing members of society? At the same time, do we only prioritise segments of society that are contributing to the country, and what about those who, due to their circumstances, may be disadvantaged? We need to ensure we do not leave them behind.”

– Youth at engagement with young working adults on public housing, 20 Nov 2022


Min Desmond Lee and distinguished speakers discussed housing issues in Singapore with youths during a ForwardSG dialogue.
Minister Desmond Lee and distinguished speakers discussed housing issues in Singapore with youths during a Forward Singapore dialogue

4. Older Singaporeans preferred to age in place, and hoped that their flats can be better equipped with elderly-friendly features, with access to integrated care services.

5. Singles wanted to have their own space and privacy, especially with the growing prevalence of remote working arrangements.

6. Participants generally agreed that we should prioritise first-timers who are looking to purchase their first home. But they acknowledged that there are different degrees of urgency in the housing needs within this group, and that some groups of first-timers should be given more support and priority.

A more inclusive transport system

7. Participants were generally proud of and satisfied with Singapore’s public transport system. They recognised our land constraints and were supportive of going car-lite.

8. They agreed with prioritising Walk-Cycle-Ride modes of transport, as well as moving towards greater reliance on public transport and active mobility for sustainability. There was broad support to repurpose road space to prioritise pedestrians, public transport and active mobility over private vehicles.


“Infrastructure-wise, [we] should also focus more on walking and cycling rather than private modes [of transport]. [We should] have safer street(s)… and should reflect the focus on active mobility.”

– Working adult at engagement on shaping our land transport system, 23 Sep 2022

Participants called for our public transport to be made even more inclusive. They were willing to accept some inconveniences that come with making our transport infrastructure more friendly to seniors and persons with disabilities.

“Transportation needs to be future ready. How will an ageing population travel about in the future?”

– Participant at engagement with public officers, 21 Sep 2022

Ministers Desmond Lee, S Iswaran, Josephine Teo and SMS Sim Ann interacting with members of the public.
(Left to right) Minister Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State Sim Ann, Minister Desmond Lee and Minister S Iswaran interacting with members of the public

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Steward: Environmental and Fiscal Sustainability

A sustainable Singapore

1. Participants agreed that everyone must do their part to build a climate-resilient and sustainable Singapore for future generations.

2. There was broad consensus on the need for a mindset shift across all segments of society to adopt more environmentally-friendly behaviours.

“The narrative for Singapore to be more environmentally sustainable needs to be more consistent across all parts of society. Currently, it is very consumer-centric. Use less straws. Use less bags. What about narratives that involve organisations? Organisations need to do their part. What about the narrative that involves the Government? Is the government consistent with its actions to preserve green spaces? What about public sector processes, i.e. procurement?”

– Feedback collected at engagement with public officers, 21 Sep 2022

3. There were many suggestions for stronger incentives or disincentives to drive environmentally-friendly behaviour. Many participants said they were prepared to bear with some inconveniences or pay more for environmentally-friendly goods and services. They also felt that better infrastructure that makes sustainable practices more convenient, would help to change people’s behaviours.

"People understand the importance of recycling. But this doesn’t often translate to behaviour change due to inconvenience and short-term mindsets."

– Participant at Forward Singapore Intergenerational Conversation, 3 Dec 2022


"Provide incentives to those who had contributed to the Green Plan 2030, such as the Healthy 365 app where incentives could be redeemed after completing some challenges.”

– Participant at Forward Singapore Conversation @ Marsiling-Yew Tee, 8 Oct 2022


Students from Xingnan Primary School sharing their environmental project with Minister Grace Fu.
Students from Xingnan Primary School sharing their environmental project with Minister Grace Fu

4. While participants generally resonated with Singapore’s climate ambitions, such as our target for a net-zero economy, they felt that these goals and the trade-offs involved can be communicated more simply, so that everyone can understand and rally behind them.

5. Participants acknowledged the need to manage the transition to net-zero carbon emissions at a suitable pace, so that we can meet our climate ambitions while remaining economically competitive.

Funding diverse needs

6. Participants acknowledged that, with finite fiscal resources, the Government has to balance the diverse needs and aspirations of different groups, and ensure a fair and considered allocation of funding across various policies and schemes.

Participants from the Singapore Scout Association brainstormed on how they can do their part for the environment. (Credit: MCI / Kevin)
Participants from the Singapore Scout Association brainstorming on how they can do their part for the environment

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Unite: Singapore Identity

1. Some participants emphasised the importance of articulating a clear Singaporean identity, while others pointed out that what it means to be a Singaporean will continue to evolve, with diverse interpretations across society.

“It’s hard to feel a sense of belonging or ownership if you don’t fit into the template Singaporean narrative... We can craft a wider narrative [of what makes a Singaporean], but this will be increasingly difficult as Singaporeans become more diverse."

– Participant at engagement with public officers, 21 Sep 2022

Singaporeans called for society to come together to guard our multiculturalism and diversity. There was consensus that mutual respect for each other’s traditions and cultures is necessary for societal harmony. To this end, Singaporeans should stay curious and learn more about our different cultures, and be more gracious towards one another.

“[It’s] hard to know your neighbour. We should bring back the kampong spirit. Have more block parties… but [it’s] hard to get the people to come.”

– Participant at Forward Singapore Intergenerational Conversation, 3 Dec 2022

3. Many Singaporeans were enthusiastic about playing a bigger role in shaping our future. Participants expressed interest to:

a. Contribute ideas and shape policy at both national and local levels, to foster a greater sense of community and national identity.

b. Participate in new engagement and partnership forms, such as Alliances for Action and the use of Open Space Technology, where participants can lead discussions and propose ideas to address issues they are passionate about.

c. Give back to society in various ways, with their resources, time, and effort.

“Since my daughter was young, I have been bringing her to volunteer with different organisations and to lend a hand to those who need help. I want her to grow into a caring individual who not just receives, but also contributes back to the society she lives in.“

– Middle-aged mother at Forward Singapore Conversation @ East Coast, 30 Oct 2022


Minister Edwin Tong engaging youth leaders on the challenges in building and maintaining social cohesion.
Minister Edwin Tong engaging youth leaders on the challenges in building and maintaining social cohesion

“To contribute, you need not be a social service agency or the Government. We each have individual agency. When we come together with the goal of making a difference together, our efforts are amplified, and we can do so much more.“

– Community leader at engagement with community partners on supporting social mobility, 16 Nov 2022

4. Participants agreed that closer collaboration and partnership between the Government and other stakeholders in society – businesses, the community, and individual Singaporeans – would be essential in the next phase of our nation-building. 

“We need not just safe spaces to dialogue, we need brave spaces to dare to disagree and take risks in prototyping new social possibilities; so we will not be victims of our own success(es).”

– Youth leader at Forward Singapore National Youth Dialogue, 23 Jul 2022

5. By overcoming crises and seizing new opportunities together, Singaporeans hope to build a more united and resilient Singapore. They also aspire towards a society that is more caring and inclusive, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect regardless of their backgrounds.

Discussions amongst youth leaders about tackling important national issues at the event
Discussions amongst youth leaders about tackling important national issues

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