Continue being inclusive as we work on social inequality

There has been healthy debate thus far between social workers, netizens and ordinary residents on social inequality.

The philosophy of social equality is premised on the egalitarian principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.

In a theoretical meritocracy, anyone with skill and imagination can be whatever they aspire to be.

But even if given equal rights and opportunities, will there ever be a utopian state where every person in the society achieves the same outcome in life?

Bridging social inequality is a worthy goal that we must undoubtedly work towards, yet we are nowhere close to agreeing on what that looks like. There is also a difference in the definition of equal rights and opportunities.

Should there be Internet access for all, a TV set in every household or a minimum income that fulfils the physiological and safety needs of everyone in the society?

The debate continues.

However, while we give our attention to reducing social inequality, we must not take our eyes off social inclusion.

Is there a difference between social inclusion and social equality? In my mind, there is.

I see social inclusion as the collective value - moral orientation - that we need to bring and hold people together in our society.

So, even as we struggle with the adaptive challenge of social inequality, we can certainly strive to give empathy and be inclusive of those who are different to us.

A socially cohesive society is not necessarily demographically or socio-economically homogeneous, but is one where all members feel a sense of belonging, recognition and legitimacy.

We may need policy wonks, academics and experts to solve the social inequality problem, but offering acceptance, support and friendship to those who are not like us is what we can all do as individuals.

Anthea Ong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2018, with the headline 'Continue being inclusive as we work on social inequality'. Print Edition | Subscribe