SINGAPORE - Identity is not just about the past but our "common future", Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing told a youth forum yesterday.
He said a Singaporean identity is difficult to define based on a shared past as many in the population have different roots, grew up in different environments and speak different languages.
Instead, the Singaporean identity should be based on a common future which the Republic can move towards with a shared perspective.
"While we look at the past to find a source of strength for our values, we must not let our past be a source of division," he said.
"Instead, we should let the future be a unifying force for us."
Mr Chan was addressing 300 local and foreign tertiary students at the Institute of Technical Education College East on embracing diversity.
The event was organised by the National Youth Achievement Award Gold Award Holders' Alumni.
Some students raised concerns about competition from foreigners in the job market, while others asked about their assimilation into society.
Mr Chan explained that there is a need for foreign transient workers for jobs which cannot be filled by Singaporeans as well as for those in new industries where there is still a lack of local talent.
But he said the Government has tightened the labour demand in certain sectors to ensure that companies do not become reliant on "quantitative labour inputs but qualitative labour inputs".
"Over time, we hope to progressively replace the dependence on foreign transient workers (in the newer industries) with our local people," he said.
Mr Chan also said it is a way of life for cities to have populations consisting of people from many different races as they compete for the best talent.
But instead of viewing it negatively, he urged Singaporeans to embrace the opportunity to learn from foreigners.
He added: "They can share different perspectives and provide new ideas. The interplay of those ideas with our ideas will help Singapore stand out as a global city."
This article was first published on November 23, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.