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Access Social Mobility Summit 2024

Opening Speech by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Trade and Industry, at the Access Social Mobility Summit on 5 April 2024

  1. A very good morning to all of you.
  2. I will start by telling you a story. About 20 years ago, I was volunteering at the rental flats at Jalan Kukoh. I was doing that for a couple of years and set up a programme called CATCH Plus. CATCH Plus is meant to help uplift lower-income youths.
  3. Here comes a 17-year-old young man. I invited him to come join us. That was my first experience with younger Clarence (Clarence Ching, Founder and Executive Director of Access), who was very motivated to do something. He started off from the ground, and with me, trying to learn about the challenges on the ground and finding a way to do something about it.
  4. Then, he came up with this great idea called Access. Five years on, you have achieved so much, together with your team and partners, and it is something worth celebrating.
  5. Access has turned from the idea of a 17-year-old to a ground-up mobility start-up, and now a charity. In these five years, it has made an impact and opened doors for more than 1,000 students. The impact has been insightful and has made a difference.
  6. Access is looking at a gap that needs to be filled, intervening at very critical stages where the youths are exploring and learning about the rapidly evolving world and finding out where the opportunities are.
  7. And sometimes, these doors are not necessarily open. Thus, Access.
  8. Access now has multiple programmes, including career and exploratory programmes, and all of these are very useful, and they provide great opportunities.
  9. But as Clarence mentioned earlier on, what is the state of social mobility and what are we doing about this?
  10. There are three things.
    1. First, how are we doing it? How are we trying to enhance social mobility?
    2. Second, who ought to be responsible for enhancing social mobility?
    3. Third, if you are the recipient of some of these social mobility programmes, what do you ought to do?
  11. Let’s start with the ‘How’. Many of you know the Forward SG movement. The Forward SG report is out and many of you participated in discussing what you want to see Singapore become and what the new social compact for this new generation entails.
  12. Many of you told us that you wanted programmes that support mentoring, to provide access for people who have less, and enhance social mobility. In my previous employment, we studied economic outcomes and the network gap. What the network gap entails is that there are certain people who know others and are able to get access to job opportunities and mentorship, and that is important. So, how do we bridge this network gap?
  13. Let me share a bit more about what the Government has been doing. Firstly, if you look at taxes, we have one of the lowest taxes in the world and it is progressive in nature. If you were at the bottom 20%, for every dollar of tax you pay, you get back 4 dollars worth of benefit. This is what you call the benefit-to-tax ratio. This is better than cases like the UK and Finland, which is about 3.5 dollars of benefit to a dollar of tax. If you look at the middle band, for every dollar of tax you pay, you get back 2 dollars of benefit. Again, better than the UK, where they get about 1.20 dollars for every dollar of tax.
  14. So, these things are important as it is one aspect of social mobility. However, it is important to note that these do not include other benefits such as quality education, housing, and healthcare. It is important to put that into perspective.
  15. Secondly, we look at wages. As different jobs are being created and the economy becomes more competitive, how do you help those at the bottom? What we have put in place is Workfare, a scheme that provides incentives to lower-income workers. We also have the progressive wage model, and this is specific to certain job scopes (i.e., blue collar). You first start and build up your skills, and then you have your corresponding wage increase. I think that is fairer – fairer not just for the workers themselves but also for the employers. It is a fairer way to build social mobility.
  16. Thirdly, we look at caregiver support. We understand that caregivers are important, particularly in our ageing society. We now have home caregiving grants and a caregivers training grant. We can better support caregivers as they care for the elderly.
  17. If you look at ComLink+ – let me bring you back to Jalan Kukoh, where there are vulnerable families. We have enhanced ComLink+ to support these families. We continue to support the Jalan Kukoh ComLink families there and we can see how the ‘many hands approach’ is supportive. The practical support includes the reduction in monthly childcare fee caps and the increase in school subsidies.
  18. So, these are tangible actions that we are putting together to enhance social mobility.
  19. Finally, mentoring – something very close to my heart. I want to thank Access for partnering our national movement, Mentoring SG, in bridging this network gap, and opening doors and opportunities for individuals to see what it is like to work in great companies. So, please join and support Access.
    1. For example, if I was someone living in Jalan Kukoh, I may want to find out more about the technology sector, logistics or other sectors, but I may not have those networks; so where do I go? My parents may not have those networks either, and that is why the national movement, Mentoring SG and partners like Access are important.
  20. So that was the ‘How’. Then, ‘Who’? That’s all of us – not just the Government, but it also involves the corporates, and the social sector.
  21. To wrap up, the ‘What’: So what if we do all of these things? Why does it matter? If you are a recipient – a student and have signed up with Access, in any of the career aspiration or mentoring programmes – do turn up. Turn up on time and be ready to learn. After you have done so, give back, so that there is a virtuous cycle, and we keep paying it forward.
  22. Thank you, Clarence and team, for supporting this very important work that Access has been doing!
Last updated on 09 April 2024