Forum: Breaking down data can aid public discourse

Office workers walk along Shenton Way, on April 14, 2015.
Office workers walk along Shenton Way, on April 14, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

In the debate over employment data and requests for stratified data for Singapore citizens versus permanent residents (PRs), Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat said "we must firmly reject all attempts to drive a wedge between different groups within our society" (Chee Hong Tat: Data on employment is clear, Jan 10).

The Ministry of Education has been publishing the educational performance of Singaporean students in the annual national examinations broken down according to the Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others racial classification.

In 2012, when asked in Parliament about this, then Senior Parliamentary Secretary Hawazi Daipi said that doing so "enables the respective communities to monitor the effectiveness of their educational programmes".

"There is also value in providing such information so that the community, ethnic self-help groups and the public can study the data and discuss areas for improvement," he added.

The national disease registry also publishes statistics on the incidence of various medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke, among the four major ethnic groups.

Despite regularly releasing data broken down by ethnic groups, Singapore enjoys good inter-racial harmony. If providing stratified data would "drive a wedge between different groups within our society", then the Government should abolish the release of data categorised by ethnic group.

Not providing stratified employment data broken down into citizens versus PRs does not mean that the divide is not there, especially when the Government itself has put in place policies to differentiate between citizens and PRs, such as for housing, healthcare and education subsidies.

It is flawed to assume that data stratification would "drive a wedge between different groups within our society".

Instead, there is no doubt that providing stratified statistics would contribute towards more informed public discourse and analyses of the socio-economic issues facing our country.

Sin Wei Xiang