We all know that the National Day Rally is almost always used as a platform for the Prime Minister to chart his plans for the year ahead and beyond. This year, PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered his National Day Rally on 18 August 2019.
In his speech, he touched on Singapore’s history, the economy, education, older workers, and even climate change.
So, what are the key takeaways for workers?
Retirement and Re-employment
This is a big one.
Singapore’s retirement age will eventually go up from 62 today to 65. Re-employment will go up from 67 to 70.
This won’t be done overnight, though. The Government will gradually increase the ages over time. The target is by 2030.
The first move will be in 2022. In that year, the retirement age will be raised to 63, and the re-employment age will be raised to 68.
The Government also committed to raising the retirement and re-employment age first. If you’re in the civil service, your retirement and re-employment age will be raised to 63 and 68 respectively in 2021 instead of 2022.
CPF Contribution Rates
The CPF contribution rates for older workers will be increased for the next 10 years too.
Today, the CPF contribution rate for those below 55 stands at 37 per cent. The rates will, however, begin to go down after we turn 55.
In 2021, the CPF contribution rates for those above 55 will start to increase.
If you’re 55 to 60 in 2030, you will enjoy the same contribution rates as those below 55.
The contribution rates will only begin to taper down after 60 and will level off after 70 – which is the ceiling of the re-employment age then.
In case we start panicking about the age we can start withdrawing our CPF money, PM said that there won’t be any changes to the withdrawal ages or policies. You can still take out some money at 55 and start CPF payouts at 65. Those remain the same.
The state of the US-China relations will also impact our economy.
There has been slow economic growth due to weaker global demand and trade.
Thankfully, retrenchment rates have remained low. And the unions reported that the slowdown hasn’t significantly affected jobs yet.
But if the situation turns for the worse, the PM said the Government will work with the unions to promptly respond.
More Pre-school Subsidies for Middle-Income Families
More middle-income workers will receive Government subsidies for their children’s pre-school education.
Currently, those with a household income of more than $7,500 per month don’t qualify for additional pre-school subsidies from the Government.
But from next year onwards, the household income ceiling to qualify for these pre-school subsidies will be raised to $12,000.
This means 30,000 more households will qualify for the subsidies. The Government will also increase the quantum of pre-school subsidies.
New Island Resort
We can also look forward to a new island resort for workers after Singapore’s labour chief Ng Chee Meng made a special request at Cabinet.
PSA currently occupies more than half of Pulau Brani. But once PSA moves to the Tuas Port, many of the areas it used to occupy in the city will be empty land that can be reused.
And the Labour Movement will likely get to build its new resort on Pulau Brani, according to the PM.
PM Lee calls it a gesture to workers to thank them for their contributions to Singapore.
But Pulau Brani will be underwater if we don’t do something to battle climate change.
What we workers need to know is that climate change is real. And it will affect many of us in our lifetime.
In 30 years, several cities in the world, including Singapore, will be affected by unprecedented climate shifts, according to a recent Swiss study. This shift will include a rise in sea levels.
In his speech, the PM urged all of us to do our part to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Singapore has committed to slow down and cap carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 with the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016.
Budget 2018 also saw the announcement of the carbon tax for companies and homes.
But taxes and agreements won’t do Singapore any good if we don’t do our part as well – We need to remember to switch off our lights, reduce waste and reuse and recycle more.
The next 10 years will be uncertain for Singapore. It will be like the weather that is ever-changing – one minute extremely hot and the next minute pouring rain, said PM Lee.
“We must be prepared for this uncertain future … I firmly believe that if the Government and people are united, Singaporeans will have better lives and Singapore will continue to shine in the world,” he said.