How The National Youth Council Singapore Started

In 1988, then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong appointed then Brigadier General Lee Hsien Loong to chair an Advisory Council on Youth to assess the state of young Singaporeans and recommend measures the Government can implement to nurture the potential of young Singaporeans and deepen their sense of identity and stake in Singapore.

Within a year, a Report from the Advisory Council on Youth proposed four areas for the Government to look into. These were to support youth in:

- Developing a clear sense of direction in life
- Supporting youth aspirations
- Providing for more balance in life
- Establishing a National Youth Council

What The National Youth Council Singapore Was Tasked With

A National Coordinating Committee for Youth (NCCY) that involved multiple ministry representatives earlier had oversight of youth affairs. The Advisory Council recommended for an independent youth council to allow greater youth representation and include partners who are experts in the youth domain to effectively implement the Advisory Council’s recommendations.

Hear what BG Lee had to say about the National Youth Council at the press conference in 1989 below:

(Source: Mediacorp Pte Ltd, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore).

Watch a report on what members of the advisory council were tasked with, and how they landed on the recommendations(This item is pending. Check back soon!)

Early Years Of The National Youth Council (NYC) Singapore

Keeping the focus on youth served as the mandate for the NYC from the onset when it was established on 1st November 1989 under the People’s Association. Led by the NYC’s first Chairman, Acting Minister for Health, Yeo Cheow Tong, programmes were implemented to provide youths with a robust and balanced lifestyle, whilst enabling them to contribute to nation building. One of these programmes was the redevelopment of the Outward Bound Singapore in Pulau Ubin

By 1993, the NYC was given another mandate which was to keep youths informed, enthused and involved. Programmes to engage and support youth initiatives grew and to promote these programmes, the NYC embarked on marketing efforts to raise awareness of how the NYC supports youth development in Singapore. Chairman for the NYC, then Acting Minister for National Development, Lim Hng Kian, shared these plans in his speech in 1994.

National Youth Council Through The Years

Since its beginning, the programmes, initiatives, events and activities of the NYC have revolved around the organisation’s core purpose – supporting youth development and deepening the sense of identity amongst young Singaporeans. Different generations have different priorities and life aspirations and the NYC has been intentional in engaging and  studying youths to be attuned to shifts in attitudes, lifestyle choices and aspirations.  For example, the last national level youth engagement was the SG Youth Action Plan in 2018 and close to 5000 youths shared about how they want their future to be like in Vision 2025. Under Singapore’s 4G leadership in a post- COVID-19 era, national youth conversations are currently underway with the Forward Singapore exercise.  

The concerns of youths in the 1980s may be vastly different from concerns in the 2020s, yet time has not dampen aspirations that are constant - wanting a balanced life, recognition and respect for different career pathways and caring for the community’s vulnerable. Beyond youth engagement, the NYC also tracks the changing state of youth through polls, topical based studies and longitudinal research on a specific cohort of youths

The National Youth Council Singapore Today

As the NYC expanded its footprints into the lives and hearts of young Singaporeans, more space and capabilities were needed to build on these inroads. The organisation became an autonomous agency in 2015. Outward Bound Singapore and Youth Corps Singapore became part of the NYC to support the organisation in our mandate in developing engaged youths with a strong stake in Singapore.

In the course of the organisation’s journey, the impact on youth the NYC wants to have has not changed since the recommendation of having a National Youth Council was first broached. BG Lee Hsien Loong shared about what he hoped the National Youth Council would deliver in outcomes and results when asked by a reporter at a press conference for the release of Advisory Council’s Report on Youth. His response captures what the NYC is about, even today, over 30 years later. Listen below:

(Source: Mediacorp Pte Ltd, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore).