MP Carrie Tan’s views on MINDEF’s Committee of Supply Debate 2022
Times have evolved, and we must recognise that cracks in our social cohesion could pose a real danger to Singapore. Polarisation, and any existing fault lines in our society can easily be exploited when people are over-stressed, frustrated and pressured. It would be a dire situation if our manpower shortage in the healthcare sector were to continue. I urge the nation to expand its definition of National Service to include care vocations to help reduce the stress of our people from the challenges of an ageing population.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families’ caregiving needs increased. Many citizens had to quit their jobs to care for the young and old at home. Losing income because of caregiving is a double whammy of stress.
I suggest that MINDEF work with MOH to expand National Service to include community care and enrol both Men and Women. We can deploy young people based on their aptitude. Those who are physically unsuitable for the armed forces, such as those in PES E, can be deployed to care roles. Those with the desire and physical aptitude can opt for military positions. This will help solve the manpower shortage challenge that both Ministries are having.
Building up our nation’s capacity for care is vital. NS roles can include respite caregivers, care coordinators, medical escorts, befrienders, mental health responders etc.
This is not a novel concept. In Switzerland, conscripted men can opt to do civilian service instead of military service, serving in areas like health care, welfare, environmental protection, research projects, or development assistance abroad.
If National Service means service to the nation, it only makes sense that we evolve it to meet the most pressing needs of our nation. I urge MINDEF to consider this suggestion with urgency.