Challenges to Social Mobility in Singapore

61 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2020

See all articles by Kong Weng Ho

Kong Weng Ho

Singapore Management University

Date Written: July 2, 2020


Singapore had achieved impressive economic growth together with a high level of upward mobility since her independence in 1965. However, the growth process might have become more uneven, in addition to diminishing growth for a matured economy like Singapore, which is also a highly open city state subject to competitive forces from other economies. Singapore has fared well recently, evident from the 2020 social mobility findings reported by the World Economic Forum and the decline in Gini coefficients for the past decade. We discuss the education system in Singapore and the recently formed National Jobs Council, both important institutions for the advancement of social mobility, followed by some forthcoming policies on foreign manpower, and other related policies to tackle inequality and issues on social mobility.

COVID-19 brought forth four consecutive Budgets addressing not just immediate and short-term concerns but planning for the recovery and growth in the future. We examine challenges to social mobility: future growth prospects and processes, fiscal sustainability expecting greater social spending, and opportunities of the middle-income class together with other familial challenges in Singapore. Using a simple model which endogenizes inequality and upward mobility, we analyse important past events and future scenarios: past influx of and future reduction in migrant unskilled workers, preference shift toward equity, early education intervention, and jobs in the future. We recommend a dedicated office to coordinate and evaluate various social mobility programmes. Strengthening the social compact via policies encouraging concern for others will bring a positive spill-over on both social well-being and social mobility in Singapore.

Keywords: Social Mobility, Singapore, COVID-19, Social Compact, Migrant Workers, Inequality, Middle Income Class, Inclusive Growth

JEL Classification: D63, E66, I31, J61, J62, J68, Y10

Suggested Citation

Ho, Kong Weng, Challenges to Social Mobility in Singapore (July 2, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Kong Weng Ho (Contact Author)

Singapore Management University ( email )

90 Stamford Road

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics