Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Integration and inclusiveness in Singapore

AS SINGAPORE grows to a five-million- strong population, and as society becomes more diverse in terms of backgrounds, nationalities, income groups, religions, vocations and so on, the issue of integration is increasingly becoming a pressing one. This is especially so as more and more foreigners choose to set up home here, temporarily or otherwise. So far, the signs have been encouraging, with the Government and the community in general making efforts to promote assimilation. A series of celebrations to mark International Migrants Day on Dec 18, for example, aims to recognise the contributions of this demographic to Singapore's success. These include a Migrant Workers Talent Quest contest, to be held at the Float@Marina Bay on Dec 19. Also, last week, to mark Foreign Domestic Workers Day, a concert was held for maids from Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar at the NTUC Auditorium.

As foreign workers make up one-third of the Singapore workforce, it is important that they be incorporated into Singapore society at large, and not be left to exist in silos as an 'invisible' population. There are also other groups like that, made up of Singaporeans who do not quite fit into mainstream society and who may be at risk of falling through the cracks in the national discourse as Singapore society evolves rapidly and the pace of life quickens.

The Government is doing its part to make sure no one gets left behind. In the news last week, it was reported that some Members of Parliament have started community-based initiatives to track residents in their neighbourhoods, listing which agencies they have turned to for help in the past, as well as their special requirements. What follows then is a matchmaking effort which pairs neighbours, as well as businesses and schools, who can help with those who are in need of help.

Also heartening are the programmes by schools such as NorthLight and Assumption Pathway to take in students who have failed their Primary School Leaving Examination, with the view of training them in basic English, maths and computer skills, as well as vocational skills like retail operations and food operations.

All these acts of integration and inclusiveness bode well for the Singapore ethos - enshrined in our National Pledge - of one united people, regardless of race, language or religion. Nobody should be left behind; everyone should be given every opportunity to fulfil his or her potential; and society has to step in to take care of those who still do not make it despite all those opportunities. That is the only way Singapore can remain a community. The Straits Times Singapore editorial

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