MIS in the news (5)

We are pleased to see that our latest report has generated much interest in the week since the launch, with extensive media coverage and online discussion. Here are a few highlights.

A Channel News Asia news clip from 8 October 2021, including interviews with team member Ng Kok Hoe:

Ng Kok Hoe was also on MoneyFM to discuss what one of the radio hosts described as the “most talked about headline this week”. This includes some discussion of concerns raised by the Ministry of Finance.

The Straits Times has carried two op-eds (behind paywall) on the study. ‘What it means to live well in Singapore‘, by Terence Ho, reflects on the concepts of absolute and relative poverty:

Many goods and services provided by the market cater to what the bulk of the population can afford – for instance, casual restaurants have proliferated across suburban malls and residential estates, while hipster cafes are now common in many gentrified precincts in Singapore.

Social exclusion may arise when a child feels she cannot afford to join her friends for lunch at the mall after school, or when her classmates are comparing their holiday experiences abroad and she is left out of the conversation.

There are also social norms dictating the amounts people contribute to funerals or weddings, which impinge on an individual’s social respectability.

Enrichment classes speak to both social norms and social mobility. Notwithstanding the high quality of public education, many parents feel obliged to put their children through private tuition and enrichment programmes, which they view as necessary for their children to keep up or keep ahead.

The approach taken in the household budgets study, subjective as it may be, takes a crack at factoring in social norms and expectations which have a role in shaping social inclusion.

The second op-ed (paywall) was written by MIS team members Teo You Yenn and Ng Kok Hoe. In it we explore the nature of the focus group discussions in more detail, highlighting the dynamics of the deliberations and how we observed groups come to consensus despite variations in their own experiences:

Over these four years, we have learnt from our participants that everyone living in Singapore today has needs for housing, food and clothing, opportunities for education, employment and work-life balance, as well as access to healthcare. Everyone needs a sense of belonging, respect, security and independence. Every person needs choices to participate in social activities, and the freedom to engage in one’s cultural and religious practices.

We have learnt from them too that they know not everyone in Singapore today is meeting these needs to the same degree. This does not lead anyone to say that any of these are therefore not needs; that only those who can afford it deserve belonging, respect, security and independence; that some children should have paid tuition suited to their needs and other children will just have to accept whatever they can get from charity.

In spending time and energy to share their experiences and insights with us, our participants have put in our hands the responsibility of putting this question on the table: If ordinary people can see and express that there are universal needs, that there is a baseline below which no one should fall, what will we do collectively to make sure all members of our society meet these basic needs?

More media: