Why It Matters

Shaping a more diverse Singapore

A joint study by the Institute of Policy Studies and Channel NewsAsia has provided some insight into how ethnic identity is shaped here.

Findings from the study, released on Wednesday, have been helpful in pinpointing some gaps and issues in ethnicity dynamics.

For instance, the report found that despite high levels of interest expressed in inter-cultural exchanges, many of the 2,020 respondents indicated that they did not participate in the cultural practices of people of other races.

The study also found that respondents were more likely to accept new citizens as being "truly Singaporean" if they were from the country's four core ethnic groups.

But they were less accepting of new immigrants of other ethnicities, especially if the new citizens were people from less developed regions.

The results have already led some inter-cultural groups here to say they will be more proactive in organising programmes for new citizens to mingle more with Singaporeans.

And, everyday Singaporeans have suggested households here do more to open up their homes to neighbours and friends during major festivals and celebrations.

The study also found an erosion of ethnic traditions and heritage. For instance, millennials placed less importance on the ability to cook ethnic food and felt the same way about ethnic art and music.

Still, deeper analysis is needed for some of the results, including why respondents feel the way they do about inter-cultural romances.

Experts have cautioned against using the findings to justify employing the Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others classification model in more policymaking decisions.

They said ethnic communities are diverse, and it would also be more inclusive to look beyond stereotypes and categories, as well as to reframe the discussion to attain true "multicultural nirvana".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'Shaping a more diverse S'pore'. Subscribe