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Strengthening social capital and network diversity in Singapore

Response to parliamentary question on the Ministry’s research and work to strengthen social capital

  1. Social capital – our social networks of trust and mutual support - is critical for building a shared identity and sense of belonging in the community. Whom people interact with, how actively and intensely they engage with others and the trust they have for each other, determine how cohesive our society is. 
  2. The last comprehensive national study on social capital was conducted in 2017 by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) with the support of MCCY. Following this 2017 study, we have been monitoring indicators relating to social capital through various other studies. From the IPS World Values Survey1 conducted in 2020, we noted that generalised trust was slightly lower in 20202 during the Covid period compared to 2012. Trust is built through interpersonal interactions. If safe management measures during the Covid period were to persist for a longer time, the social capital we have could well be eroded by the extended reduction in social interactions.  
  3. In studies conducted in 2020 and 2021, the National Youth Council found that the pandemic had reduced opportunities for interactions between our youths with those outside their households or social circle. Social interactions emerged as one of the most prevalent challenges for youths and especially for those in schools. 3The pandemic also impacted working youths psychologically and economically. A recent study found that lower wage youths experienced greater wage disruption and earnings loss, and also reported higher levels of anxiety.4
  4. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Singaporeans quickly adapted to the social restrictions, moving many interactions online. Families gathered and connected on the Internet, while volunteers engaged with beneficiaries virtually by holding their activities online. But these virtual interactions, while they were the best we could do under the circumstances, were not the same as connecting in person.   
  5. Recognising the vital need to strengthen our social capital, Minister Edwin Tong highlighted during the recent Committee of Supply debate, how MCCY is fortifying the social connections and “glue” that binds us together. We will continue to boost our social capital and deepen connections through the 4 Ps - Places, Programmes and Partnerships, and most crucially, People.   
  6. First, through common places, specifically social infrastructure, we aim to provide opportunities for people to meet and build friendships. An example is the Bring Sport Back programme where the public gets a chance to interact and participate in mass sports activities at common sports spaces.
  7. Next, we foster greater connections in the community through programmes and partnerships designed to encourage people from different backgrounds to interact and bond together. These include efforts such as the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCCs), BRIDGE programme (Broadening Racial & Religious Interaction through Dialogue and General Education), the MOE-OBS Challenge and volunteering opportunities offered by Youth Corps Singapore. 
  8. Last, MCCY builds social capital by facilitating connections among people. To foster a culture of care and neighbourliness, initiatives such as the SG Cares movement and the national network of volunteer centres seek to make volunteering part of our daily lives.  In addition, PA will launch a new Community Volunteering initiative to allow people to work with their communities on causes they care about. 
  9. Through these various initiatives, we hope to provide our people with opportunities to connect, bond and feel a sense of belonging to one another. As they do so, our social capital is strengthened. MCCY will continue working with all Singaporeans to harness places, programmes and partnerships, and people to build a more cohesive society that we are proud to belong to.

1Lived Experiences in Singapore: Key Findings from the World Values Survey, IPS Exchange Series, Number 18, July 2021

2Percentages who agreed that most people can be trusted was 37.5% in 2012 and 34.6% in 2020

33 in 10 schooling youths felt that they have insufficient opportunities to interact with others (Source: Youth Sentiment Tracker, NYC, Aug 2021).

4Separate Lives, Uncertain Futures: Does Covid-19 Align or Differentiate the Lives of Low- and Higher-Wage Young Workers, Applied Research in Quality of Life, June 2022 by Irene Ng, Tan Zhi Han, Vincent Chua and Annie Cheong

Last updated on 02 August 2022