The ministry at the frontline

Chan Chun Sing. Yea, sure, we all criticised and made fun of him for his seeming arrogance and for his “kee chiu” remarks. Now that he’s made MCYS minister, some may say he is starting off with an insignificant or light-weight ministry. “WHat? A chief of Army being given a kuching kurak ministry?” some have said to me.

But such remarks are quite ill-informed, really. MCYS will be one of the most important ministries – and I might add, with some of the toughest responsibilities to fulfill.

Consider this: By 2030, some 900,000 Singaporeans will be 65-years old and above.

Then consider the issues and problems which this will throw up. Healthcare, housing, welfare policies, employment, cost of living, etc.

Many perhaps will fall through the cracks.

MCYS is the ministry which is at the frontline of administering to these needy cases.

If you also consider that there are currently only 600 social workers in Singapore, you can see the challenge – and the potential problems. In fact, the problems are already here. And one of these is Singaporeans shunning social work. The govt has tried to address this by offering more attractive pay packages, employing more part-timers and foreigners (which throws up more problems of its own) and redesigning the jobs and processes.

In short, if no one wants to do the job, what do you do?

I am not sure and the ministry will have to work hard at addressing this.

The good thing is that now we have Halimah Yaacob as the Minister of State of MCYS. While Chan Chun Sing may be inexperienced, Mdm Halimah is not and by all accounts (from people I know who have interacted with her and worked with her) she is one of those rare ones who are genuinely caring. That’s a good thing.

Chan Chun Sing and Halimah, in their first public statements after the election and appointments to their new positions, highlighted the manpower shortage. This is significant – it shows that they recognise the fundamental problem. And I applaud them for this.

But certainly they have their work cut out for them.

So, I think if we spend a little time to ponder on the scenario in 2030 (or even earlier) we can see that we will face a serious situation. There are no easy or simple solutions.

And if I may pick your brain – and get away from the finger pointing or holier-than-thou diatribes, what else can MCYS do to improve the manpower shortage problem?