Managing Diversities

Globalisation, access to digital technologies, the changing role of media, and rising education levels in Singapore have led to more new and different identities, of gender, nationality, religion, race, class, education, family structure, sexual orientation and political ideology.

This research programme tracks our growing diversity and its implications for national identity, social cohesion and capital, community resilience and governance.


Central Questions:

The Singapore polity today is colourful and complex, what are the key areas of diversity and the attendant issues?

What opportunities and challenges does diversity present for equality, network building, and social cohesion?

What are the possible policy interventions (e.g. via technology, education, and the social sector) that can help Singapore better manage and ride on diversity?

The Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) was implemented in 1989 to prevent the formation of ethnic residential enclaves in Singapore.  This policy ensures that every block of public housing has a mixture of all racial groups.  In-spite of this policy, there are signs that certain estates remain the favourite residential sites for different racial groups .   This study explores the residential preference for Housing Development Board (HDB) resale home buyers through the housing agents.  It will identify the key drivers among prospective home owners, and how these forces will undermine our social fabric.  

Lead researcher: Leong Chan Hoong

This study examines how the social and built environment influence attitudes to immigrants, community trust, and the formation of social capital.  Based on a national survey involving more than 3,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents, we examine the geo-spatial connections between neighbourhood social norms and Singaporeans’ acceptance of immigrants and immigration policies.   The study will also uncover the types of facilities and physical features that can make a positive change in perceptions, and those that may exacerbate tensions.

Lead researcher: Leong Chan Hoong

This CNA-IPS survey of over 2000 respondents aimed to study what Singaporeans felt were core identity markers of the main ethnic groups in the country. The survey also examined the extent of ethnic cultural performance among Singaporeans, what they believe should be transmitted to their children, and the extent of their understanding of and engagement with other ethnic cultures. In the age of globalisation, when a variety of cultural products are available, the survey also examined the affinity Singaporeans have to different world cultures.

Lead Researcher: Mathew Mathews

The IPS Social Lab is conducting a study to understand how Singaporeans’ perceptions of physical heritage influence their sense of national identity, national pride and personal well-being. It aims to gain a deeper understanding of what Singaporeans perceive as important landmarks and buildings in Singapore, and why. Such research will aid the planning and implementation of heritage conservation policies.

Lead Researcher: Paveena Seah

This study aims to investigate the various forms of behaviour exhibited on digital platforms and why these forms of behaviours are exhibited. Given the prevalence and reach of digital platforms in our society today, this research will help us better inform policy decisions and devise interventions where necessary to address any issues related to digital platform use in Singapore.

Lead Researcher: Dr Natalie Pang

This study, funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, examined the factors that encouraged married couples to remain in their marriages despite facing crisis. Data for this study is drawn from indepth interviews representing nearly 100 marriages, interviews with marriage counsellors and a small scale survey of 500 married persons.

Lead Researcher: Mathew Mathews

This study, using in-depth interviews attempts to document and analyse trends and concerns that religious leaders and members observe about religion as practiced in Singapore. Based on the IPS Survey of Race, Religion and Language, about a quarter of Singaporeans have concerns that increased religiosity may result in greater societal tension. There is also some who feel that religious groups should have more rights. Over the years with increased immigration in Singapore, there is greater diversity in religious practice and belief. These trends have the potential to draw new lines of tension in the practice of religion in Singapore.

Lead Researcher: Dr Mathew Mathews

This study, using a survey of 1000 respondents and indepth interviews with 100 of them seeks to better understand the dynamics of multicultural living in the HDB heartlands. It looks at the challenges and opportunities to maintain such cohesion.

Lead Researcher: Mathew Mathews

The Institute of Policy Studies is conducting a study on stay-at-home fathers who provide care for their children (and other relatives like parents) and are responsible for household duties. The government has been promoting active fatherhood in recent years and the voices of this group of fathers will be a valuable part of this conversation, in informing policies concerning family, fatherhood, flexible work arrangements, and other areas.

Lead Researcher: Yvonne Arivalagan

A collaboration with the Disabled People's Association, the study recruits and trains people with disabilities to be researchers so as to understand the full range of potentially unknown or invisible forms of workplace discrimination as a result of disability. Data collection will be done through interviews, journaling and focus group discussions with the disability community.

Lead Researcher: Justin Lee

The education system and school environment should support Singaporeans' educational aspirations. The study aims to capture parents' aspirations for their children's education, to better understand the views on the choice of a primary school and what they believe constitutes a good school and educational system. The study also examines the experiences of parents helping their children through their educational journey and what is thought to be needed to ensure that there is the right balance of competition, co-curricular activities (CCAs), and leisure for the child.

Lead Researcher: Mathew Mathews

In recent decades, Singapore has witnessed an intensifying educational "arms race" with high expenditure and time on tuition and increasing stress on both parents and students. This qualitative study, funded by the Family Research Fund of the Ministry of Social and Family Development, examines the impact of academic stress on Singaporean families, particularly focusing on how parents translate perception of local education into expectations and aspirations for their children, and how this affects family bonding and familial relations. It positions parents as possible mediators of academic stress who can alleviate or exacerbate not just education pressure but also its impact on family ties.

Lead Researcher: Mathew Mathews

The survey builds on previous studies on race relations in Singapore and focuses on several areas that have not been comprehensively investigated in the past. Through a household survey of 2,000 respondents, it seeks to understand what the population deems as racist behaviour, how prevalent Singaporeans believe racism is present in the community, and the extent to which parents should educate their children on matters of race. The perceived value of discussing and clarifying racial issues was also explored in the study.

Lead Researcher: Mathew Mathews

During the first few decades of nation building, policies were designed to homogenise aspects of Singaporean society while enshrining principles to allow restricted amounts of diversity. Fast-forward to the present, the number of areas where diversity is profoundly apparent remains copious, and its manifestations more varied. The Managing Diversity study involved the commissioning of a number of publications between 2012 and 2014 examining diversity management in Singapore. These included research on the management of language, race, religion, immigrant workforce, national service, media, urban landscape, social class and the family. The study resulted in an edited volume, Managing Diversity in Singapore: Policies and Practice and a conference in August 2016 that further explored other areas of diversity management such as new pluralism and disability. The project ultimately provides an updated account on the tensions posed by diversity in Singapore and how this is being managed, primarily by the state through policies and programmes but also by communities who attempt to negotiate these tensions.

Lead Researcher: Mathew Mathews

This project done between October 2015 to February 2016 sought to articulate what counts as ideal inclusion for people with disabilities in employment. This is important because the lack of clear guiding principles can result in patronising or oppressive practices in the name of “inclusion”. By examining existing codes of practice and close consultation with stakeholders, a set prescription that can be used to bring about meaningful and sensible inclusion of people with disabilities was articulated. The vision and guiding principles from the study can be the foundation for a longer-term strategic conversation with the larger disability community, employer groups and policymakers so that they remain relevant and refined as the sector changes. The findings of the study were also shared at the Managing Diversity Conference held in August 2016.

Lead Researcher: Dr Justin Lee

Racial and religious harmony in Singapore has often been regarded as a work in progress. As a follow-up to the IPS-OnePeople.sg Indicators of Racial and Religious Harmony study, this study, conducted between late 2015 to early 2016 sought to further our understanding of ethnic relations in Singapore. It looked beyond how people of different ethnic communities viewed issues related to social cohesion and studies how various stakeholders dealt with the issues at hand. To understand the logic, rationalisations and worldviews of people, 32 focus group discussions were conducted where participants could candidly engage with the experiences and viewpoints of different participants.

Lead Researcher: Dr Mathew Mathews

Immigration has proven to be a thorny issue in Singapore. Despite the economic benefits, there have been concerns about competition for space, jobs and school opportunities, amongst other things. Coupled with cultural differences, such fears and anxieties fuel the us-and-them divide. If left alone, such divides could compromise cohesion and stability of Singapore. This project involved bringing together the immigrant association leaders and local community leaders to dialogue on issues to surface new approaches to building integration. Beyond the dialogues and conference, held in November 2013, the project resulted in IPS Exchange Series No.7: Sentiments on Immigrant Integration & the Role of Immigrant Associations which also showcased the many immigrant associations in Singapore and their contribution to migrant integration.

Lead Researcher: Dr Mathew Mathews

The survey asked 1,251 Singapore citizens between July and September 2013 what National Service (NS) means to them, tapping on their personal NS experiences. The belief in the need for NS; the level of family support for NS; perceived employers’ attitudes toward NS; perceived policy fairness; and training safety and quality of medical support in NS, were some of the issues examined. The study delved into emerging issues, in particular, the opinions regarding women and permanent residents contributing to defence. Finally, it examined how the NS institution could be strengthened to make servicemen feel appreciated. Read more here.

Lead Researcher: Dr Leong Chan Hoong

How do we know that Singapore is a racially and religiously harmonious society? This study analysed the IPS Survey on Race, Religion and Language to provide a series of 10 indicators that provide a glimpse at the level of racial and religious harmony in Singapore. The indicators were released to the public on 18 July 2013.

Lead Researcher: Dr Mathew Mathews

Issues on race, religion and language have always been seen as sensitive topics in Singapore. However, in a society that is multi-racial, multi-religion, and multi-lingual, it is inevitable that these elements are encountered in our everyday living, and continue to develop complex inter-relationships among themselves. The situation is further impacted by the new immigrant population. In order to understand how these three constructs bear implications to aspects of social life — including social identity, social attitudes, social capital and distance and social harmony and inclusion — a large-scale, nation-wide quantitative survey was conducted Dec 2012 – April 2013 to collect data on the sentiments of Singaporeans on their racial, religious and linguistic identities and attitudes. The survey findings can be found here and was also published in IPS Working Papers No.21: Religiosity and the Management of Religious Harmony: The IPS Survey on Race, Religion and Language.

Lead Researcher: Dr Mathew Mathews

Corrosive speech, though not always intentionally harmful, can cause misunderstandings, exacerbate existing tensions among different communities, and erode social relations. In this study, we examined the nature of corrosive speech in public discourse, proposed a multi-pronged strategy to address corrosive speech, and provided recommendations on how society as a whole can cope with corrosive speech. A seminar was also held in March 2013 to seek feedback for the findings and recommendations. The final report was featured in the IPS newsletter, and can be found here.

Lead Researcher: Tan Tarn How