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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Social mobility - Singapore

Today online

Mobility in S'pore 'higher than previously thought'
by Neo Chai Chin 04:46 AM Jan 13, 2012

SINGAPORE - Having poor or less-educated fathers does not necessarily mean their sons will fare similarly, according to a study by a Ministry of Finance economist.

Using the income records of about 39,500 father-son pairs from the Department of Statistics, the study has found inter-generational mobility in incomes and educational attainment to be "moderate to high", and higher than levels in the United States.

The correlation between measures of fathers' incomes and those of their sons is 0.22 to 0.30, depending on whether annual or monthly incomes were used. The number typically varies between 0 and 1, with a higher value implying lower mobility.

A 1992 US study found a correlation score of 0.4 and concluded inter-generational mobility there to be "relatively low".

The Singapore study tried to measure the incomes of fathers and sons as close to the middle of the life cycle as possible: Cohorts of eldest sons born from 1969 to 1978 and their mean employment income in 2008, and their fathers' mean employment incomes between 1996 and 2000.

Daughters and younger sons were left out, in line with comparable studies to avoid gender or birth-order biases in child investments, and also because daughters' incomes may be complicated by events such as childbirth and marriage.

Despite recording relatively high levels of mobility, the study by Ministry of Finance economist Yip Chun Seng noted "some evidence, though not strong, of lower mobility among the poor".

The report found mobility levels here higher than that found in two previous studies here using smaller sample sizes. Titled Intergenerational Income Mobility In Singapore and available on the MOF's website, it cited increased educational opportunities in the 1960s to 1980s as a possible reason for the relative mobility. NEO CHAI CHIN

Time to rethink social compact: Economists
by Ng Jing Yng 07:06 AM Jan 17, 2012

SINGAPORE - The Government needs to rethink its social compact as the income gap widens and social mobility slows down, some prominent economists here have argued in a paper.

The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) paper, Inequality and the Need for a New Social Compact, was written by six economists, including Mr Manu Bhaskaran, an adjunct senior research fellow at IPS, Mr Donald Low, a former senior civil servant at the Ministry of Finance, and Mr Yeoh Lam Keong, who was formerly a managing director and chief economist at the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.

The paper, which was shared yesterday at IPS' annual Singapore Perspectives conference, noted that "the fruits of growth are distributed more unevenly than before".

The authors said that key policies - in the areas of social security, healthcare, housing, education and infrastructure - had been designed for a "youthful population and steady economic growth".

Against such a backdrop, emphasis was placed on several tenets, including individual responsibility, and public housing was seen as an instrument of redistribution - all of which had worked out well. "(But) this benign context is now changing profoundly," the authors said.

With a maturing economy, an ageing population and erratic economic growth, it has become more difficult for Singapore to achieve equitable growth, and gaps in accessing primary needs are emerging.

The current social compact would not be sufficient "in the face of the changes unleashed by globalisation, rapid technological change, and our own policies", said the study.

There is a need for a social compact that strikes a better balance between growth and equity and between individual responsibility and social insurance, which will also reflect changes in the domestic political landscape, said the authors.

Such a compact would "foster a more cohesive, less polarised society where citizens have an interest in pursuing the common good even if it means near-term sacrifices".

The previous economic crisis has resulted in the need for an "activist government" to correct market failures in key policies. This might mean questioning long-standing policy beliefs like whether stronger social safety nets would undermine competitiveness, and having a small government and low income taxes.

It would also require the Government to think creatively and pragmatically on its policy outcomes and processes. The authors recommended a national conversation between the Government and its citizens to decide how Singapore's social compact should evolve.

Pointing to the Scandinavian countries which have broader social programmes that have proven to be sustainable, the authors also noted that Singapore is in a much stronger economical position to invest in long-term measures to ensure more inclusive growth for Singaporeans

03 Mar 2011
The Straits Times (Singapore)
'Significant' degree of social mobility
Today's students continue to do better than their parents and there is data to back that up.

Half of today's Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) pupils from the bottom one-third of families by parents' education and the type of flat they live in, emerge among the top two-thirds of PSLE scorers.

So there is still "significant mobility working through the system", Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday, addressing MPs' concerns that social mobility has slowed.

But with each successive cohort, it will become more difficult for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds to make their way up the education ladder, he acknowledged. That was "precisely because we achieved a very high degree of mobility in the past".

Since the 1960s, Singapore has achieved "phenomenal mobility".

Pointing to his fellow members in the House, Mr Tharman said many of them were the children of parents who "started off with little". They had however done well through a meritocratic system and so have their children.

Citing census data, the minister said that in 1980, less than 10 per cent of young adults aged 25 to 39 had diplomas and university degrees.

By last year, that figure had shot up to 64 per cent – a "very significant shift", that came after the first wave of mobility in the 1960s and 1970s.

"We have to put much more effort into our mobility efforts as we go forward, to prevent a cycle of disadvantage for those from lower-income backgrounds," Mr Tharman said.

The Government will continue to invest heavily in education, especially at the early stages, to reduce the disadvantages faced by children from low-income backgrounds, he pledged.

Since 2006, spending on childcare and primary education has grown much faster than spending on secondary and tertiary education. Spending on childcare has gone up by 150 per cent per child while spending on primary school has increased by 60 per cent per pupil.

"The more we do early on to help children discover their strengths, the more likely they will be able to move up and do better than their parents," he said.

Unlike in many other countries, there are also no huge disparities in facilities and teaching standards between schools in poor and wealthy neighbourhoods.

Singapore's neighbourhood schools have "principals and teachers who are passionate about what they do, and try to make learning interesting for each student".

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