Singapore — The People’s Action Party (PAP) held a virtual panel session to introduce its manifesto on Monday (June 29), the eve of Nomination Day.
Thirteen leaders were present at the session, highlighting different aspects of the manifesto, titled Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future.
Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung shared his thoughts on social mobility in Singapore.
Mr Ong highlighted growing inequality as one of the main issues that the country has been facing. He said: “It is becoming more and more challenging not just for us, but for all societies in the world… it has become a more urgent problem.”
However, Mr Ong praised Singapore’s ability to allow its citizens to be successful despite their background. He cited the 4G ministers as an example of a group of individuals who had come from humble backgrounds but nonetheless excelled because of social mobility in the country. Many other common people have also embarked on the same path.
He added: “I think the ability to bring about social mobility and take people out of poverty has been one of our biggest accomplishments over the last two generations since we’ve become independent.”
However, Mr Ong also warned that this is “unfinished business”. He explained that this is because the younger generation of parents today, “parents with the resources will have the ability to invest more in their children. And then, privilege and social status get entrenched”. This is why he believes that even though the PAP and Singapore has done well in ensuring social mobility, inequality remains a pertinent issue in society and is only getting even more challenging to overcome as time progresses.
He added that, as more people move out of poverty, “whoever is left behind becomes harder and harder to help”. To resolve this, Mr Ong called for a “broader concept of meritocracy”. He explained that, while meritocracy is the best way to tackle inequality, its definition needs to go beyond academic meritocracy. He added that, instead, “life-long meritocracy of skills” should be included in this broader definition of meritocracy and emphasised the importance of SkillsFuture in this.
Many of those commenting on the virtual panel session agree that the PAP has indeed done well in ensuring social mobility.
Some, however, feel that more can be done.
Others believe that even if the Government broadens its definition of meritocracy, the onus is still on the individual to escape the poverty cycle.