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Singapore and Japan only Asian countries to make it to the top 20 in new global report on social mobility

Singapore performed well in healthcare and education sectors, just like the top scorers on the index, but lower scores in fair wage distribution, working conditions and social protection brought down its total performance

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SINGAPORE — A report on global social mobility published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) found Singapore and Japan to be the only Asian countries to make it to the top 20. Out of 82 countries surveyed, Singapore is in 20th place worldwide.

WEF released their inaugural Global Social Mobility Index 2020 on Sunday (Jan 19). According to the WEF, social mobility is “the movement in personal circumstances—either ‘upwards’ or ‘downwards’—of an individual in relation to those of their parents”.

At its root, it is the ability of a child to live a better life than their parents did, measured against a number of socio-economic outcomes such as educational achievement, health and earnings.

The report, which focused on drivers of social mobility—such as practices and policies—instead of outcomes, used 10 pillars. They were further broken down to make the five determinants of social mobility—1) health, 2) education, 3) technology access, 4) work opportunities, conditions and wages and 5) social protection and inclusive institutions.

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WEF said that it created the index in response to the modern challenges of social mobility faced by economies all over the world, adding that it could become an important tool to assist leaders in identifying areas where social mobility and equality can be improved and bolstered.

The results 

The index identified 20 countries (out of 82 countries in total surveyed) that were the top performers in terms of social mobility:

Top 20 rankings/World Economic Forum Global Social Mobility Index 2020

Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland took the top five spots globally, scoring 85.2, 83.6, 83.6, 83.5 and 82.7 out of 100, respectively.

In comparison, high-performing Asian nations Japan (15th place, with a score of 76.1) and Singapore (20th place, with a score of 74.6) were the only ones in the region to make it to the top 20. Closest was Korea, ranked 25th on the list, with 71.4 points.

Singapore’s performance

The global report noted that Singapore needs to increase its performance by just 10 points (giving it a score of 84.6) on the index, which will result in an additional US$2.4 billion (S$3.2 billion) to the nation’s economic output per annum.

Singapore performed well in healthcare and education sectors, just like the top scorers on the index, but lower scores in fair wage distribution, working conditions and social protection brought down its total performance.

In terms of healthcare, Singapore scored 91 out 100, which put the city-nation in 7th place globally. The top spot in terms of healthcare is held by Cyprus.

Singapore also scored highly in the area of education, making it to the top 10 globally. For access to education, Singapore scored 84 points (8th globally, with the Netherlands holding the top spot). For education quality and equity, the WEF gave Singapore 86 points (fourth in the world, behind number one ranker Sweden). For lifelong learning, Singapore is the third in the world, with a score of 78 (Switzerland is in first place).

Though Singapore scored highly in terms of education, the WEF report said that the city-nation should look into improving its social diversity (students from mixed socio-economic backgrounds) within schools.

In terms of social diversity in education, Singapore scored 60.1 (34th in the world, with Norway as the top scorer globally).

Areas of improvement for Singapore

Despite scoring well in healthcare and education, Singapore was one of the lower performers in terms of fair wage distribution and social protection, in which it was ranked 51st and 61st, respectively.

The country can certainly improve when it comes to offering labourers fair wages. Currently, the entire income share of the bottom 50 percent of the population represents only 25.7 percent of the labour share of the top 50 percent.

The report stated that what the world’s economies need is a change of policy mindset that focuses on its individual citizens, regardless of their current socio-economic status.

Overall, the Global Social Mobility Index 2020 revealed that globally, only a few nations have the “right conditions to foster social mobility”. Currently, most countries surveyed were found to have under performed in the areas of fair wages, social protection, working conditions and lifelong learning. /TISG

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