Focus on common experiences to bridge socio-economic divide

Public and private housing in Toa Payoh.
Public and private housing in Toa Payoh. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The report on the diverse residential experiences within Singapore's only integrated housing block which mixes rental and purchased units highlights the potential and limits of government intervention to reduce socio-economic inequality (Views mixed in block with purchased, rental flats, June 6).

This is especially so, given that some people from the purchased units appear disproportionately displeased with the arrangement.

Residents in both groups have created and mostly stuck to their respective communication channels, and online and offline interactions across the groups seem limited.

This brings attention to the perceptions we have of ourselves and the stereotypes we hold of other Singaporeans, and ultimately points to the complexity of social mixing in different settings.

Academic researchers should be prompted to further examine the attitude and behaviour of the residents and their families.

Research around the world has demonstrated the relationship between neighbourhood assets or community efficacy and the well-being of families.

And while general levels of prosperity and ethnic integration policies have respectively resulted in generally strong communities and prevented the formation of ethnic enclaves, a contemporary challenge is division across socio-economic statuses.

It is increasingly plausible for a child from a middle-or upper-class family to never have interactions with those from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds.

The result of these non-interactions is the likely persistence of prejudiced perspectives from childhood to adulthood, and to the next generation.

The Government may be keen to bridge (socio-economic) divides, but the most sustainable solutions must emerge from individuals and communities, especially for those born into privilege, to proactively burst personal bubbles.

The Government may be keen to bridge these divides, but the most sustainable solutions must emerge from individuals and communities, especially for those born into privilege, to proactively burst personal bubbles.

Beyond frames of reference anchored by pity or other class-based distinctions, perhaps, a greater focus on commonalities - starting with the children and the family, and moving to features of the shared living environment - would mean much more.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2019, with the headline 'Focus on common experiences to bridge socio-economic divide'. Print Edition | Subscribe