In Singapore, there is a commonly shared belief that upward socioeconomic mobility (either intra or intergenerational) is attainable through the practice of meritocracy, alongside an investment in education and citizens’ hard work (sometimes referred to as the “Singapore Dream”). A study by the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) in 2016/17 examined perceptions of socioeconomic mobility among Singaporean youth.
- How do Singaporean youths in polytechnics understand socioeconomic mobility?
- Is there a shared belief that upward socioeconomic mobility is attainable through meritocratic values and practices?
- How do youths capture (or not) the significance of ethnicity-, class- and gender- based constraints on the process of upward socioeconomic mobility?
- Socioeconomic mobility was understood by the interviewees in three forms: (i) financial success, (ii) social status, and (iii) equality of opportunity.
- The dominant perception was that that upward socioeconomic mobility should be possible within Singapore’s meritocratic society.
- However, upward socioeconomic mobility was perceived to be negatively affected in practice by (i) ethnicity; (ii) class, (iii) gender, and (iv) education.
Three policy implications emerge from these findings:
- There is a need to triangulate the findings of this study with others to understand whether the perceptions of ethnic, class, gender, and educational disadvantages manifest in reality.
- If further study does not show that the perceptions manifest in reality, there is a need to correct these false perceptions. As the ability to ensure upward socioeconomic mobility (either intra or intergenerational) is sometimes referred to as a “civil religion” holding societies together, perceived dissatisfaction may lead to social fractures.
- If further study does indeed reveal that reality matches the perceptions, policy attention is called for owing to the importance of meritocracy and socioeconomic mobility to Singapore’s social contract.
- Understanding the Perceptions of Meritocracy Among Singaporean Youth, TODAY, 26 November 2018
Country and Region Studies / General / Non-Traditional Security / Policy Reports / Singapore and Homeland Security / Southeast Asia and ASEAN
Last updated on 27/11/2018