Is it a “Singapore Core” or “Singaporean Core”? 

Chan Chun Sing

In an earlier session of Parliament, the press reported Chan Chun Sing as having told the nation a “Singaporean core is not exclusive to Singaporeans.”

Actually Chan didn’t say that. If you listened carefully to his speech, he used a very different word.

The Labour Chief was very certain that he wanted to push through an idea of a “Singapore Core” and not a “Singaporean Core”.

It doesn’t sound like an accident. He repeated the word 7 times throughout his speech consistently, so we can be sure that he intended it.

Grammatically, there’s only one right answer: it’s Singaporean Core.

Semantically however, a “Singapore Core” means something else altogether. It brings to mind a nation, one people and one entity. This is in stark contrast as compared to the highly divisive, individualistic and self-centred “Singaporean Core”.

So is it “Singapore Core”? Or “Singaporean Core”?


Here is his speech in full:

Let me state the Labour Movement’s stance on the Singapore Core.

We believe in the Singapore Core. We believe in urging and working with companies to build a strong Singapore Core. That Singapore Core does not mean that it is an all-Singaporean workforce only.

We recognise and accept that for Singapore to be regionally and globally competitive, we need a diverse team. A diverse team of talents from cross culture, cross sectoral backgrounds and international exposure.

So what does it mean to develop a real Singapore Core? It means giving all Singaporeans a best shot at rising up the hierarchy. We are not asking for affirmative action that just because we’re Singaporeans – therefore we will get ahead compared to the rest. 

We are asking for a fair chance.

We want to work with the MNCs to give our workers a fair chance and a fair shot and NTUC is committed to work with the companies to give our workers that very chance. To be groomed not just deep in their professional competencies but to prepare them with cross sectorial competencies so that they’ll have a best shot to rise up the hierarchy and reach the C-suite positions (of which have many good positions created in Singapore). 

It would be such a waste when EDB and the MTI having worked so hard to bring these good jobs to Singapore, but ultimately our people are not able to take these jobs. 

To take on these jobs we must prepare our people way in advance. 10 to 20 years in advance. Our people need to be groomed systematically through diverse paths and be exposed beyond our shores. We need to see the world as our oyster. Only then will we be able to take on the very best jobs available. 

Today, our top jobs in ExxonMobil and Shell belong to Singaporeans. These two Singaporeans did not just train here. They were exposed to opportunities in the entire globe before returning to take on leadership positions today.

And we will continue to make sure that we adopt this inclusive and globally oriented approach when we define the Singapore Core. The Singapore Core cannot be defined from an exclusive and inward looking perspective. 

We will work with MOM and MTI to continue to strengthen those companies who want to support us in this endeavour. And i think Minister Lim will announce more of such measures in the coming week.

NTUC will also be doing what we can to help our younger generation get the exposure necessary when they are young, before family commitments tie them down. We need to prevent PMETS in their 40s from being displaced in 10 years time. (To do so) we have to start with the PMETS in their 20s and 30s now. Otherwise we can’t blame the competition should one day our people lose out.

So, Mr. Deputy Speaker the challenge is upon us just as it is upon any country. We need not fear the competition (simply because) there is competition. In fact the greater the competition and the more intense the competition… the more we are able to (set ourselves apart) if we organise ourselves well and get our act together.

As I always say: our circumstances do not define us. (It is) our response to the circumstances will define us. There is no reason why, no reason whatsoever…that our tripartite formula having served us so well, will not be able to help us overcome this challenge ahead of us.

But it requires us to have a shared understanding that this is not just a cyclical slowdown, there are more fundamental structural forces at work. It requires us to have a shared understanding that for every dollar that we take from the budget, we have a responsibility to do the most that we can be it businesses or individuals.

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