Inequality has improved in Singapore: Grace Fu

The findings of a recent study that a person's network of friends tends to be made up of people with similar school background and type of housing were "not unexpected", said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday.

This was cited by some MPs, including Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC), as they expressed concern about a growing class divide here.

But, Ms Fu said: "Contrary to what some may assume, inequality has improved in Singapore, more so if government transfers are included."

She highlighted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's reply to a parliamentary question last month, noting that income inequality had declined slightly over the past decade.

The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality from zero to one, with zero being most equal, fell from 0.470 in 2006 to 0.458 in 2016. After accounting for government taxes and transfers, it is 0.402.

Even as Singaporeans move in the same social circles, they are also meeting and making friends with people from different walks of life, she said. The Institute of Policy Studies' study stated that many said they help neighbours and have friends of a different race or religion.

The findings also show that taking part in sports, the arts and volunteer activities promotes interaction across groups, Ms Fu said, adding that her ministry has been working to nurture social cohesion through these activities. She said: "There will be fault lines in any society. What matters is that we don't let that divide us, and we grow the common spaces where we encounter and connect with one another."

Yuen Sin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2018, with the headline 'Inequality has improved in Singapore: Grace Fu'. Print Edition | Subscribe