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Promoting social interaction and integration across groups in Singapore

Response to parliamentary question on the social divide among the population


Mr Seah Kian Peng: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth whether there is a widening class divide amongst the population and, if so, what plans does the Ministry have to bridge such gaps.


  1. Minister Grace Fu:Mr Seah Kian Peng asked if there was a widening class divide amongst the population. The Minister for Social and Family Development has addressed at length related questions on income inequality, social mobility and social integration. His written reply pointed out the steps taken by the government in reducing economic disparity and emphasised the importance of social integration, so that we progress together as a people. On this front, we have been doing well. The recent study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) on Social Capital in Singapore, supported by my ministry, asked respondents to name different kinds of people who make up their social network. The results are encouraging and show a good deal of social mixing. The study found a fair amount of racial and religious diversity in people’s social networks. It noted that respondents and their neighbours helped each other with house matters, while workplace ties were an important source of social companionship, inter-ethnic contact, and inter-nationality ties. Although respondents tended to have social networks that were relatively less diverse in terms of educational status and type of housing, the study also found that respondents were able to name people in occupations ranging from low to medium to high status and prestige1. As this study is the first of its kind in Singapore, it can be built upon to track the trend over time.
  2.  The IPS study noted that participation in sports, arts and volunteer activities, in addition to schools and workplaces, promotes social interaction and integration across groups. These are areas where MCCY has been working hard at to nurture social cohesion by facilitating shared experiences and strengthening bonds within and across communities. Social harmony is not something we can leave to chance. Over the years, we have introduced initiatives to enhance social mixing on various fronts.

    Positive interactions

    At School
  3. One strategy is to create more opportunities for positive interactions among Singaporeans regardless of socio-economic background, age or ability. An example is the Secondary 3 MOE-OBS programme launched in 2017 that has so far brought together 6,000 youths from diverse backgrounds for a 5-day camp where they forge new friendships through challenging experiences. We will progressively expand this programme to include the entire Secondary 3 cohort when the new OBS@Coney campus is ready.

    Through arts, sports and volunteerism
  4. Through the arts and sports, our programmes provide opportunities to bridge and integrate communities. Programmes and activities at the ActiveSG Sports Centres, as well as sports initiatives such as Team Nila, SportCares and ActiveSG programmes bring people of different backgrounds and abilities together.
  5.  Furthermore, SG Cares is forging partnerships across corporates, schools, public agencies, non-profits, community partners and ground-up movements to encourage and support Singaporeans’ effort to do good and better help those in need. Through this movement, we are fostering a more caring and cohesive society.
  6. Government is doing its part to partner Singaporeans to bridge social divides, but ultimately, a strong cohesive community cannot be commanded by government. Social trust requires the commitment and effort from each and every one of us to build an inclusive and cohesive society.

    1 Respondents have acquaintances from an average of 8.6 occupations out of 21 listed in the questionnaire (i.e., nurse, administrative assistant in a large company, banker, cashier, CEO, cleaner, contractor, engineer, hawker, lawyer, factory operator, member of parliament, personnel manager, policeman, professor, receptionist, security guard, taxi driver, teacher, technician, waiter).
Parlimentary Matters Community 2018
Last updated on 01 March 2019