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Building and sustaining a strong and united Singapore

Response to parliamentary question on tackling fault line formation from immigration and socio-economic status trends

Question

Mr Gan Thiam Poh: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth what has and will the Government do to prevent (i) fault lines from class and immigration issues to develop (ii) erosion of our Singapore identity and (iii) gaps in the socio-economic status of Singaporeans.

Response

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth:

  1. Since Independence, we have built a cohesive, fair and just society together. Diversity is a major feature of Singapore society, but we do not let our differences divide us. We have been proactive in our approach to social integration, especially in Singapore’s multi-racial, multi-religious context. Our housing policy on ethnic integration and our national education system are examples of how we bring people together - regardless of their backgrounds - in public housing estates and schools. Our parks, libraries, hawker centres, sports facilities and museums are important common spaces open to all, so that Singaporeans from different walks of life mingle easily together.
  2. This is how we built a strong unifying Singapore identity, despite having the diversity that comes from being an immigrant nation. More recent immigrants to Singapore might differ from earlier immigrants in terms of education, skills or countries of origin, but by continuing to be open and inclusive, we can sustain the social harmony we enjoy today. By and large, Singaporeans value this approach. A recent Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) study showed that almost 90% of respondents felt they could learn a lot from foreign cultures and appreciated people of different nationalities living in the same neighbourhood.1 A previous IPS study also found that Singaporeans generally had diverse social ties across age, race and nationality in their personal social networks.2
  3. However, social cohesion and harmony is not something we should take for granted. Potential fault-lines arising from class and social inequality are a concern worldwide. In Singapore, our efforts to create jobs, raise incomes across the board, and lift up the least well-off in society have worked well for the vast majority of Singaporeans. Nevertheless, we remain vigilant as social mobility is slowing globally and mitigating the effects of social inequality3 never ends. Education and training are central pillars in the Government’s effort to build a society of opportunities for all Singaporeans throughout their lives. The SkillsFuture movement and programmes like KidSTART are key in maintaining social mobility.
  4. The work of social cohesion is not something that government does, or can achieve, alone. Businesses, community organisations and individual Singaporeans have a part to play. Initiatives like UPLIFT work with community partners4 to strengthen support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our youths have been running ground-up projects to support disadvantaged groups. The SGCares movement and Our Singapore Fund promote whole-of-society activism by supporting ordinary Singaporeans with different ideas and talents to contribute to the common good. Similarly, to promote local-foreign understanding, the National Integration Council works with partners to carry out a wide variety of integration programmes. With the support of the People’s Association and its grassroots network, the NIC also runs the Singapore Citizenship Journey and mobilises Integration and Naturalisation Champions to help induct new citizens into our society by helping them internalise our shared heritage, values and norms. Through the Community Integration Fund (CIF), the NIC supports ground-up projects that foster positive interactions and mutual understanding between locals and foreigners through community service, sports and cultural activities.
  5. By engaging each other face-to-face, and working side-by-side, we can ensure that Singapore society continues to stand strong and united.

 

1 IPS Working papers No. 37: Faultlines in Singapore: Public Opinion on their Realities, management & Consequences. Respondents were asked whether if they agree that “you can learn a lot from the cultures that foreigners of diff nationalities bring into Singapore” and “(It is) good to have people of different nationalities living in the same neighbourhood”.

2 IPS 2017 Social Capital Study found a fair amount of racial, religious and nationality-types of diversity in Singaporeans’ social networks, with lesser diversity across class and education.

3 Government’s efforts against inequality has led it to stabilise in the last 10 years. The Gini co-efficient was 0.458 in 2018, similar to the 0.459 in 2017 and 0.458 in 2016. After accounting for Government taxes and transfers, the 2018 figure was even lower at 0.404. Income growth per member for households in the lowest quintile was 3.1 per cent per annum on average over the last 10 years (2008 to 2018). This is on par with the median household which was at an average of 3 percent. (MOM and DOS data, 2019)

4 These include Self-Help Groups, Social Service Agencies, grassroots organisations, corporates and citizen volunteer groups.

 

Last updated on 07 January 2020