Singapore's ranking as the joint best country for children to grow up in reflects its success in "giving every child, regardless of background, the best possible start in life", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
In a Facebook post, he said he was happy to read about the Republic's top rank - tied with Slovenia - in a recent report by non-governmental organisation Save the Children.
The report surveyed 175 countries across eight indicators: under-five mortality rate, child stunting, out-of-school children and youth, child labour, child marriage, adolescent birth rate, population displaced by conflict, and child homicide rate.
"Each of these harrowing gauges is considered a 'childhood ender'," said PM Lee. "We are fortunate that these grave threats to children are rare or do not exist in Singapore."
Although Singapore frets about social inequality and should never cease striving against it, "this report is a timely reminder that we have not done badly at all".
"While tackling our social problems, let us not lose our sense of reality and perspective," he said.
The issue of inequality featured prominently in the debate on the President's Address last month, with various ministers, including PM Lee, speaking on the matter.
8 INDICATORS USED IN THE REPORT
• Under-five mortality rate
• Child stunting
• Out-of-school children and youth
• Child labour
• Child marriage
• Adolescent birth rate
• Population displaced by conflict
• Child homicide rate
PM Lee noted in his speech that social networks are natural structures in society which form when people interact, but they must remain open and permeable. If they close up, he warned, social mobility will be frustrated and the results would be disastrous for the country.
Others, like Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, described tackling inequality as a national priority and raised the spectre of a poison creeping into Singapore society - social stratification. These discussions followed President Halimah Yacob's speech at Parliament's reopening, in which she highlighted inequality as a problem to be dealt with "vigorously". The address was drafted by the fourth-generation ministers.
In a separate Facebook post last night, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said Singapore's ranking in the survey "is a result of peace and stability, law and order, access to education and early childhood education, good nutrition and general upliftment across society, which has kept extreme child deprivation well at bay".
But Singapore's work to tackle child abuse continues. "We must continue to strengthen our community networks who help keep an eye out for telltale signs of violence or ill treatment of children," he said, citing, among others, childcare centres and neighbours. He also called for continued support for child protection officers, whose work in investigating cases of child abuse is "emotional and challenging".