Young Singaporeans follow rules too much: Panel of policymakers

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

A panel of policymakers and executives from the private sector said on Monday, August 27, that the biggest drawbacks among today’s youth in Singapore is that they tend to follow rules too much and they don’t know enough about other Southeast Asian countries.

However, according to members of the panel, their adaptability to other cultures as well as bilingualism works in their favor.

The panel met at a business forum on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China, an event organized by Business China and Singapore Business Federation. They discussed the strengths and weaknesses of young workers in Singapore amidst an economy that is quickly changing. The panelists also tackled entrepreneurship, the significance of the region of Southeast Asia, as well as the necessity of updating regulations.

Some panelists believe that Singaporean youth have global, and not necessarily regional mindsets, including Li Jianggan, who is the CEO of Momentum Works, a company that creates and manages tech ventures with a concentration in Southeast Asia.

Mr. Li gave the example of young people from Singapore opting to go to Europe rather than Southeast Asia for internships or exchange programs. According to Mr. Li, the nation’s “backyard” is Southeast Asia, though he admitted that studying in Europe is very attractive indeed.

One of the panelists at the forum was education minister Ong Ye Kung, who stressed the need for the youth of Singapore to resist complacency and become lifelong learners for the skills they need to acquire. “You may feel you can command a premium now. But people will learn what you have. You have to keep running and make sure you continue to justify that premium,” he said.

He also said that many of the youth will eventually come to the realization that there are career opportunities for them in Southeast Asia, and encouraged businesses to lead the way in this direction by having their interns work in the region for a short while.

Another panelist, Lai Chang Wen, co-founder of logistics firm Ninja Van, also stressed that many youth are not sufficiently flexible in a new working environment, which he surmised is a result of being brought up in a country where rules reign supreme.

Mr. Lai said “I think Singapore has a lot of rules. Don’t eat here, don’t drink there, don’t smoke. I think Singaporeans (have) to learn to be a bit more open-minded, and distill these rules a bit better.”

While this point was acknowledged by the education minister, Mr. Ong also said that the strengths of young Singaporean workers are enough of a reason for them to earn more than the youth from other Southeast Asian countries, since the educational system has prepared them for the new economy.

Mr. Ong said, “I think we are going to see a new generation of Singaporeans who are very tech-savvy, a lot more outgoing, prepared to work overseas, bilingual and able to work across cultures.”

He also stressed that Singaporeans have the advantage of exposure to globalization.