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Lawrence Wong Calls Meritocracy System To Be Compassionate, Urges Respect For All Professions

Lawrence Wong Urges For Improvements To Meritocracy System

Singapore has always famously adopted a system of meritocracy, the idea that people are rewarded based on their abilities rather than their wealth or social class.

However, meritocracy has come under question in recent years due to its association with elitism.

Now, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong is calling for improvements to this system. On Tuesday (28 Jun), he noted that Singaporeans still have a ways to go before perfecting our system of meritocracy.

In addition, Mr Wong urged Singaporeans to recognise members of all professions as well, such as frontline workers.

Lawrence Wong says we “cannot abandon” meritocracy

Speaking at a National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) dialogue on 28 Jun, Mr Wong highlighted the need for Singaporeans to further improve the existing meritocratic system.

Source: Lawrence Wong on Facebook

He acknowledged that meritocracy is still the best way to organise society, especially since it encourages individuals to make the best use of their opportunities. It is also better than rewarding people based on their connections, networks, or social pedigrees.

However, it has its downsides, such as the wealthy being able to grant their children more opportunities. In addition, these advantages may be passed down to future generations and kept within the families, taking away these opportunities from others.

In light of these issues, Mr Wong stressed:

We cannot abandon meritocracy, but I believe we can improve it and make ours a more open and compassionate meritocracy.

For instance, investing more in preschool education will enable every child, especially those from lower-income families, to have more opportunities and fulfil their potential.

This will prevent the circumstances of one’s birth from determining their future.

Source: myfirstskool

Another way of improving meritocracy is to look beyond academic credentials, recognise and develop talents in multiple fields, and give people chances to advance in multiple stages of their lives.

To put this into effect, Mr Wong called for the SkillsFuture programme to work more closely with employers and unions.

More employers, he stated, should hire and promote staff not just based on their credentials, but on their actual work performance and skills.

He added that overall systems of learning should be strengthened, not just in schools and formal institutions, but lifelong education. This is so that people can continually upgrade their skills and secure better jobs.

Need for recognition of different professions

Amidst these suggestions, Mr Wong also urged Singaporeans to recognise the importance of professions in different fields.

Source: Lawrence Wong on Facebook

“The most important change is not something that the Government can legislate into reality,” he said.

We must all, as a society, learn to value the contributions of every worker in every profession and every field.

This includes workers in low-income jobs who keep our society running.

During the pandemic, Mr Wong noted, these workers were essential to our country, from hawkers to food delivery riders and security officers, to name a few.

“Let us recognise them, treat them with dignity and respect, treat them kindly, never turn up our noses, and pay them well,” Mr Wong emphasised. “This way, we can accord them a greater sense of dignity in life and the opportunity to continue to improve their lives.”

Mr Wong also shared his hopes of Singapore becoming a society and system that benefits many, not just a few.

[A system] that rewards a wide variety of talents, not a conventional few, that values and celebrates all individuals for all they are and what they can achieve, and provides all with opportunities to do better throughout their lives. So let’s all work together to make this happen.

Let us form a more evolved, meritocratic society

Mr Wong’s speech is a reminder that as a nation, we ought to constantly improve ourselves.

Even with progressive systems in place, there is still room to grow. Ensuring that each individual has access to opportunities, regardless of who they are, will surely help us improve as a society.

In addition, lower-income and blue-collar workers deserve just as much respect as everyone else.

Hopefully, with Mr Wong leading the way, Singapore will continue to advance and reach greater heights in the near future.

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Featured image adapted from Lawrence Wong on Facebook and MS News.

Sudeshna Dhar

Sudeshna is a lover of all romcoms, especially Gone Girl (2014).

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