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Survey: Majority of Singaporeans believe immigrants not doing enough to integrate into society

Dr Matthew Matthews, a senior research fellow at IPS said this could be a perception problem more than anything else as immigrants contributions don't really come across in community work or associations in general

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Singapore—While almost all of the respondents in a new study said that there is much to learn from the culture of immigrants, a significant portion of those who responded said that immigrants are not doing enough to integrate into the country.

At an event by the National Integration Council (NIC) on August 3, these and other findings from the survey were revealed. The survey was part of a study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and racial harmony advocacy group OnePeople.sg.

A significant 87 percent of those surveyed said they agree that there is “a lot to learn” from the culture of immigrants. Ninety percent of respondents agreed that it’s good for people from various countries to stay in one neighborhood, while 72 percent said that they enjoy interacting and meeting with new immigrants.

However, 67 percent said they believe immigrants are not doing enough in order to integrate into the country.

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Dr Matthew Matthews, a senior research fellow at IPS, shared these findings on Saturday. The Straits Times (ST) reports Dr Matthews as saying that the comfort level when it comes to newcomers to the country has been generally stable, and mentioning significant challenges in integration, like variances in values and norms, and well as the perception of being treated differently.

The study was done with 4,015 citizens and PRs being surveyed between August 2018 and January 2019, and concerned respondents’ views on religion and race in 10 specific aspects including comfort levels towards other races as well as discrimination.

The study showed that more Singaporeans currently have close friends from other races  in comparison to 5 years ago.

Singaporeans are also more trusting of those from other religions or races, the study showed.

However, the study revealed as well that more people from minority groups perceive discrimination in the workplace, for example, when they apply for employment.

The ST quotes Dr Matthews as saying, “The results on race and religion provide a backdrop that (integration) is not something that is easy. Even among locals there are differences and certain things can exaggerate them.”

Concerning the perception that immigrants do not do enough in becoming integrated, Dr Matthews said that it could be a problem of visibility or perception. “In general we don’t really see the contributions of immigrants, for example participating in community work or associations,” he added.

The guest of honour at the event was the chairman of the NIC, Grace Fu, who is the country’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.

Ms Fu said, “Integrating locals and newcomers in our society is an ongoing journey and is part of our evolution as a young nation.”

“We are all in it together. If we start excluding parts of Singapore, we are not going to succeed as a society…as an economy,” she added.  

Ms Fu announced the creation of a workgroup on the Singapore Citizenship Journey, which is a required programme for those set to become citizens of Singapore.

“The workgroup will develop content that explains our values and obligations as Singaporeans, the norms of our society, and create a common understanding of our culture and national history. Citizens will have a say in what it means to be a Singaporean.

For instance, we picked up that one of the major stumbling blocks is the limiting beliefs and perceptions about each other due to stereotypes, fear of rejection and lack of trust. To overcome this, many of our participants agreed that daily interactions at the personal level is the best place to start from, but we need to first overcome our initial inertia,” she added.

She invited others to join this group, “We value your input and we invite you to participate in choreographing this journey for new members to our Singapore family.” -/TISG

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