Offer the poor a way up the social ladder

Although I concur with most of the proposals described by Ms Janice Tai, such as making it easier for the poor to access help or cancelling debt, it is important to recognise that these solutions are remedies that address the symptoms rather than the cause ("Ease stress of day-to-day survival so poor can plan a better future"; last Thursday).

What is needed is a system that opens up opportunities for the poor to move up the social ladder.

It is crucial that the poor are not unfairly disadvantaged when it comes to educational and employment opportunities.

They already face a double disadvantage than those who are better off.

First, they begin at a lower starting point than others.

Second, even when accessing institutions, such as in education, they may not be getting sufficient resources.

This is because, given market forces, the best institutions can be afforded only by those who already have economic capital.

It is, thus, important to recognise that if we are to lift families out of poverty, it is not just about having effective social interventions, but also providing quality access to institutions.

Aloysius Chia Wei-Yan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Offer the poor a way up the social ladder'. Print Edition | Subscribe