Singapore - Post Report Question and Answers

Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is a lot of information out there on the ethnicity/race topic. Keep in mind that nothing in Singapore is random or an accident; that vibrant multiethnic streetscape that people love to romanticize in Singapore’s public housing districts (where the vast majority of Singaporeans live) is due to formal racial quota policies to avoid residential ethnic enclaves. Singapore’s current “CMIO” (Chinese Malay Indian Other) classification policy came into force after race riots during the country’s early years as an independent city-state. Read a bit about it here: Singapore is multiethnic, multicultural, multifaith. But there are deliberate policies governing these facets of life, which are designed to promote a peaceful, secure, and prosperous Singapore. Note that this is different from what some Americans may want to think of as justice, inclusivity, equity, diversity. Gender roles are more “traditional” here, with the background expectation that women will marry by 25/30, quit their careers, run the household, and raise several children, while men are expected to be the breadwinner with no hand in domestic life. This seems to be slowly changing, but multigenerational living — which has a slowing effect (for better or worse) on traditions changing — is still very much a thing here. There definitely seem to be tensions and prejudices surrounding foreign migrant workers who come to Singapore to work construction and domestic jobs. Their living/working conditions would surprise many Americans. - Mar 2022

Singapore strives to be extremely open and pluralistic. They really want to be inclusive. However, having said, there is no perfect society. I would say there are issues and prejudices with foreign domestic workers and foreign workers. There are tensions between some expats and locals. Since Singapore is small and there is a tight job market, some locals feel bringing in foreign talent is a threat. I believe there are many more tensions brewing under the surface here in Singapore, but it will take something drastic to bring them all out. - Aug 2015

No. - Aug 2015

Yes but they are very subtle and its easy to live there and not see them. - Nov 2011

Local attitudes are a mess. Caucasian models dominate in local advertising, and there's considerable plastic surgery apparent if you look at girls' eyes. The ethnically Chinese dominate all sought-after job sectors, and the lower the status of a job, the darker the worker's face tends to be. Black Americans are OK, though: coolness trumps reflexive prejudice, as long as you're well-dressed. LikeI said, a mess. - Dec 2008

Singaporeans in general are very focused on race and get puzzled when they can't put you in one of their nice little categories (Chinese, Malay, Indian, or other).In general, though, they are quite accepting of all races and religions, in large part due to a government program enforcing those norms. I didn't experience any gender prejudice, but the fact that Singapore's never had a female Minister says a lot (and is a hot topic of debate among Singaporeans themselves). - Aug 2008

Singaporeans are extremely racist towards those of darker skin color. I work for an international company whose Asia/Pacific regional office is located in Singapore, and I've encountered some truly deplorable racism from my Singaporean co-workers. - Jun 2008

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