Navigating Through Social Mobility

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Welcome to the Breakthrough Podcast in Singapore, where Dr. Tan Bee Wan, Chairman of Integrative Learning Corporation, engages in a candid discussion on social mobility and its implications for Singapore’s society. In this thought-provoking conversation with Dr. Tan Ern Ser, a renowned sociologist and Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore, we delve into the complexities of social mobility, misconceptions, lessons learned, and aspirations for a better future.

Myths About Social Mobility

One of the critical misconceptions about social mobility is that achieving it means turning Singapore into an egalitarian society. Dr. Ern Ser reminds us that Singapore’s aspiration, as stated by its founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, was to become a middle-class society. While striving for equal opportunities and reducing income inequality is crucial, it doesn’t necessarily mean complete economic equality. Understanding that social mobility in a capitalist society is about reaching middle-class status is vital.

Unforgettable Lessons from Social Mobility

Dr. Ern Ser highlights the importance of hope in the context of social mobility. Even when faced with challenging circumstances, maintaining hope is key to pushing forward and achieving upward mobility. Additionally, he emphasizes the significance of people who enter our lives at critical junctures. Sometimes, it’s the support and assistance from others that can make a substantial difference in one’s journey towards social mobility.

Aspiration for Change

Dr. Ern Ser’s ultimate aspiration, if given a magic wand, is to ensure that all children have a fair start in life. He envisions a world where every child experiences love, support, and opportunities from the very beginning. While achieving an egalitarian society may be a challenging goal, creating egalitarian upbringings for all children is a worthy objective.

This insightful conversation on social mobility in Singapore highlights the need for equal opportunities, the power of hope, and the significance of individuals’ roles in helping others achieve upward mobility. By understanding the nuances of social mobility, we can work together to create a society where everyone has the chance to reach a comfortable and secure life.

5 Comments. Leave new

  • For me I believe that strong social connections are necessary to secure attractive jobs in Singapore or to move to places you want – singapore is about who’s who

  • While Singapore’s narrative has been built on the idea of an open meritocracy that everyone has a fair opportunity to move up the social ladder, this is a complete misnomer today

  • Yes, connections matter. Broadly speaking, it’s about having social capital.

    Moreover, magnitude of opportunity and resourses differ across classes; hence, the need to level the playing field, so that class origin cannot determine class origin.

  • I meant class destination.

  • I agree that connections do matter.. In a more general sense, we speak of the importance of social capital for facilitating social mobility.

    Meriticracy needs to be coupled with equality of opportunity, and thereby a more level playing field.


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