Young people's attitudes towards other races and nationalities have improved: survey

Primary Four pupils of Boon Lay Garden Primary School build card houses as part of an exercise to launch the start of the school's two-week Racial Harmony Day (RHD) celebrations andactivities on July 10, 2017.
Primary Four pupils of Boon Lay Garden Primary School build card houses as part of an exercise to launch the start of the school's two-week Racial Harmony Day (RHD) celebrations andactivities on July 10, 2017.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Attitudes of young people towards other races and nationalities have improved, a poll of 3,531 youths has found.

This was one of the key findings of the National Youth Council (NYC), which on Friday (July 14) released the National Youth Survey 2016 that polled young people aged between 15 to 34 on issues such as national pride, their aspirations for the future and civic participation.

This is the fifth time that this survey has been conducted since it started in 2002.

Asked if they agreed with a statement that they are comfortable working together with someone of a different race, youths rated this as 4.55 on average, on a five-point scale, with five indicating "strongly agree".

This is up from 4.37 in 2013, when the survey was last conducted. The rating for whether they are comfortable working with someone of a different nationality also went up, from 4.11 in 2013 to 4.44 in 2016.

The percentage of youths who have a close friend of a different race also increased from 53 per cent in 2013 to 60 per cent in 2016, while those with a close friend of a different nationality also grew from 42 per cent to 45 per cent.

But young people are not fully confident that they can handle life's challenges.

A new indicator used in the 2016 survey, which asked youth if they agreed with statements such as whether they can bounce back quickly after hard times, found that they ranked an average of 3.29 on a five-point scale, with five being the most resilient.

The older participants aged between 30 and 34 performed better, compared to those aged between 15 to 19.

More young people are also worried about the emerging responsibilities that come with adulthood, such as being able to pay the bills on time or put food on the table.

It was one of the top three issues that youth were stressed about, after uncertainty over the future and studies. Out of a five-point scale, with five being "extremely stressful", youths rated stress over adult responsibilities as 3.3. This went up from 3.22 in 2013, when the survey was last conducted.

Stress over uncertainty about the future was rated 3.46, similar to 2013's results, while stress levels over studies dropped slightly, from 3.49 to 3.36.

The perceived necessity of marriage has also dipped. Some 31 per cent agreed with the statement "it is not necessary to marry" in 2016, compared to 25 per cent in 2013 and 17 per cent in 2010.

Still, other aspirations have remained consistent. Seven in 10 consider having a place on their own and maintaining strong family relationships "very important" life goals.

About six in 10 also rated acquiring new skills and knowledge as being "very important".

Levels of national pride among survey respondents have also increased.

Asked whether they are proud to be Singaporean, youths ranked their level of national pride as 3.37 out of a four-point scale, with four being "very proud". The 2013 rating was 3.18.

More young people are also becoming active citizens. Compared with 65 per cent in 2013, 68 per cent were involved in community groups such as those for the arts, sports or social welfare last year.

The NYC also announced on Friday that it will be collaborating with the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Social Lab on a nationally representative longitudinal study of Singapore youth.

The study, titled Youth Study On The Transitions And Evolving Pathways In Singapore, is the first of its kind to be conducted here and aims to gather data on young people's aspirations and attitudes. This is so as to understand national and socio-economic outcomes such as social mobility and subjective well-being.

It will survey 3,600 Singapore citizens and permanent residents annually between 2017 to 2022.