Forced integration: how Singapore is preventing ethnic segregation in its neighborhoods
My list

Author | M. Martinez

Singapore is succeeding in preventing ethnic segregation despite ethnic groups from various origins coexisting in its reduced territory: Chinese (74%-77%), Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore (14%) and Hindu Indians from the Indian migration of 1819 (8-9%); as well as three languages (Mandarin, Tamil and Malay) together with English and the culture inherited from having been a British colony twice (1826-1942 and 1945-1963).

When in 1963 Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined to form the Federation of Malaysia, ethnic tensions erupted. Soon after, it attained its definitive independence, but the internal battles for power in a country which, to make matters worse, was even occupied by Japan and became embroiled in two wars (the insurgency and a world war) threatened to plant a time bomb. Fortunately, the young country managed to defuse it in time.

What is ethnic integration and what does it consist of?

The ethnic integration process consists of a system that enables various ethnic groups to coexist in peace and generate interdependent relationships and, if possible, close relationships, between one another. Of course, there is not just a single mechanism for achieving this and each country chooses a system.

  • In the _assimilation _model (Germany, France), foreigners integrate within the predominant (legal) culture.
  • In the melting pot model (the Spain of the three cultures in Al Andalus or the Latin American model), there is a tacit tolerance, although not a formal mixture of ethnic groups.
  • The _cultural pluralism _model (United Kingdom) is based on ethnic recognition by law.
  • Finally, in multiculturalism, countries legislate taking into account the existence of strong ethnic and cultural differences (Australia).

Is it possible to force ethnic integration?

Ethnic integration always requires strong support policies. In general, models based on political indifference and non-recognition of ethnic groups hoping that everything will be alright, tend to generate social tensions which manifest in the form of ghettoes (Paris), racial and ethnic discrimination (Charlottesville), and, more intensely, in situations of open persecution, either under the protection of local laws (South African apartheid) or outside of such laws but with the tacit consent of the authorities (pogroms of Eastern Europe).

In other words, it is extremely difficult for a stable integration to emerge by default. As humans we tend to stick with what we know, and this includes ethnic groups. In fact, we actually steer away or even fear the “unknown”, which is why conflicts between or toward ethnic groups begin and intensify.

Singapore, a case study for its ethnic integration policy

Singapore’s forced ethnic-cultural integration model __is worthy of a classification of its own given its particular situation, which is __implemented via quotas that prevent the segregation of three totally different ethnic groups or languages, a dozen religions, four ‘majority’ countries of origin and a physical location made up of an archipelago with 63 islands which, from the start, has never been easy to govern.

Not even the Han ethnic group is united. For decades there have been cultural frictions between the people of Han Chinese descent born on the archipelago and “mainlanders_”, continental Chinese who emigrate to Singapore with the culture of the administration of continental China. __To prevent conflicts and ethnic isolation (Singapore is the safest city in the world according to Gallup) ethnic quotas are mandatory._

The distribution of public housing is carried out based on these quotas and it is impossible to find a block of apartments in which the percentage of Chinese, Indians and Malay people gives preference to one of the groups (with regard to the country’s population). And since the construction and ownership of the property are strictly regulated, given the lack of space on the island, it is extremely hard to escape the system. These quotas are also applied within the administration itself, in businesses and even in some activities such as leisure.

To date, the system has been a success that has almost prevented any sign of segregation. However, the model depends on a system of surveillance, punishment and repression, which feels somewhat Orwellian, but without which, its implementation would not be feasible. This is, paradoxically, a society that voluntarily__ relinquishes certain freedoms related to the way in which citizens interact with one another, in order to guarantee their coexistence.__

Would Singapore’s integration policies work elsewhere?

Singapore’s case is so specific given its characteristics that many researchers doubt whether the model is viable in other countries without resorting to measures that are ethically unacceptable for some democracies, such as the introduction of the death penalty, the limitation of the freedom of the press or one-party state policies (the People’s Action Party has governed since 1959).

Furthermore, four languages are spoken on the archipelago, but these are also generally spoken beyond its borders. This is an advantage for its Singaporean speaking citizens, which helps them put pressure on to preserve their culture,but which do not exist in other countries. Take for example, the Breton language, Basque, Faroese, etc., which are minority languages in their country and around the world.

One of the most interesting articles on this subject was written by Tom Benner in 2016. Singapore’s Road to Multiculturalism explains how ethnic quotas for the distribution of public services (such as housing) would help disadvantaged ethnic groups in other countries. However, in practice, this may be extremely complex and difficult to implement.

Firstly, because not everyone builds their identity on ethnicity and, secondly and more importantly, ethnic groups are not hermetic recipients with barriers around them, but rather a continuum of cultural experiences that is beyond the control of those who carry them. This situation raises a series of hard-to-answer questions: What quota does the son of a _mainlander _and an Indian belong to? What do we do with someone born into the Han Chinese ethnic group who has embraced the Muslim culture? What quota is a Chinese Singaporean who renounces his origins entitled to? Does the son of the latter belong to the Han ethnic group if he was not brought up with that culture? Extremely complex issues, but which at the moment do not seem to affect the social development of the city-state.__

Images | iStock/Itsanan Sampuntarat, iStock/Marco Gallo, Ilham Wicaksono

Related Content
[ui!] Urban Software Institute: Mobility for your whole life
[ui!] Urban Software Institute: Mobility for your whole life
Will there be a digital divide between smart and dumb cities?
Will there be a digital divide between smart and dumb cities?
Smart tourism destinations: the challenge of achieving a harmonious balance between industry and habitability
Smart tourism destinations: the challenge of achieving a harmonious balance between industry and habitability
Success story: the transformation of Singapore into a sustainable garden city
Success story: the transformation of Singapore into a sustainable garden city
Technology in schools with an impact in and out of the classrooms
Technology in schools with an impact in and out of the classrooms
Digital natives, technological illiterates?
Digital natives, technological illiterates?
Can we combat poverty with an app?
Can we combat poverty with an app?
Welcome to Vienna, the World’s best city to live in
Welcome to Vienna, the World’s best city to live in
Huawei Intelligent Operation Center: The brain and central nervous system of a Smart City
Huawei Intelligent Operation Center: The brain and central nervous system of a Smart City
SCHRÉDER EXEDRA: Lighting up cities
SCHRÉDER EXEDRA: Lighting up cities
Sameh Wahba, World Bank:
Sameh Wahba, World Bank: "Policies that can enable the creation of denser cities may be fiscal but also administrative"
Smart Innovation & City Progress in Disruptive Times: How cities are using disruption to accelerate innovation
Smart Innovation & City Progress in Disruptive Times: How cities are using disruption to accelerate innovation
Human Rights, Sustainability & Technology: Digitally Organizing Communities
Human Rights, Sustainability & Technology: Digitally Organizing Communities
And what shall we do with Grandad? Smart cities tackling the challenge of an ageing population
And what shall we do with Grandad? Smart cities tackling the challenge of an ageing population
Cities leading the way towards a just digital transition in the post-covid era
Cities leading the way towards a just digital transition in the post-covid era
PEOPLE-FOCUSED SMART CITIES: Connecting all the world’s people by 2030 as a force for good
PEOPLE-FOCUSED SMART CITIES: Connecting all the world’s people by 2030 as a force for good
Barcelona Smart Region: providing smart services for citizens
Barcelona Smart Region: providing smart services for citizens
Women's Leadership in Mediterranean Cities and Regions: addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Women's Leadership in Mediterranean Cities and Regions: addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Towards a New Latin American City: Rethinking Urban Development After COVID-19
Towards a New Latin American City: Rethinking Urban Development After COVID-19
#CitiesAreListening: Dialogue on a smart recovery in the post COVID-19 era
#CitiesAreListening: Dialogue on a smart recovery in the post COVID-19 era
Cities for global health: A city-to-city platform to face the pandemics
Cities for global health: A city-to-city platform to face the pandemics
Chicago’s inclusive response to Covid-19
Chicago’s inclusive response to Covid-19
BRENT TODERIAN: Brainstorming Urban Ideas
BRENT TODERIAN: Brainstorming Urban Ideas
Maimunah Sharif: the impact of Covid-19 in informal settlements
Maimunah Sharif: the impact of Covid-19 in informal settlements
Making Tech Work For People Across the Globe
Making Tech Work For People Across the Globe
Forced integration: how Singapore is preventing ethnic segregation in its neighborhoods
Forced integration: how Singapore is preventing ethnic segregation in its neighborhoods
How to Accomplish the
How to Accomplish the "Right to Housing"? Interview with Mayor Colau
SASKIA SASSEN: Urban Fragilities in a Post-pandemic World
SASKIA SASSEN: Urban Fragilities in a Post-pandemic World
Five changes with which cities can adapt to people living with Alzheimer's
Five changes with which cities can adapt to people living with Alzheimer's
CARLO RATTI: Reinventing the Post-pandemic World
CARLO RATTI: Reinventing the Post-pandemic World
Outdoor Smart Parking Solutions: Parking made simple
Outdoor Smart Parking Solutions: Parking made simple
MindSphere City Graph: Bringing the physical and digital world closer together
MindSphere City Graph: Bringing the physical and digital world closer together
Smartnodes: Realizing smart cities through smart lighting
Smartnodes: Realizing smart cities through smart lighting
X-Tention: How to avoid crowded places with an app
X-Tention: How to avoid crowded places with an app
Recommended profiles for you
Diego fernandez Valentin
Diego fernandez Valentin
El chema contratistas
Boss
NS
Nanon Soeters
Rozenbrood
Partner
Ivani Pauli
Ivani Pauli
Arakarah
Founder
MM
Mohammad Ali Mohammadi
university
researcher
MP
Maria Luisa Perosillo Hernando
Hadas Servicios para la Igualdad S.L.
director
Devanand Koli
Devanand Koli
BVDUPUne
I am a student in Bharti Vidyapith social science center pune. Which cource I have admitted in MSW.
aa
asdasd1 asdasd
asdfas
cxvcxvxcv
GK
Gabor Kerpel-Fronius
City Council of Budapest
Deputy Mayor of Budapest responsible for Smart City and Participatory Democracy
GG
Guillermo Giráldez Molina
University of Seville
Researcher / University of Seville
FRANCISCO DENES  PEREIRA
FRANCISCO DENES PEREIRA
Secretaria de Relações Internacionais da Prefeitura de São Paulo
Assessor Internacional
KL
KYEONGBAEK LEE
NA
NA
niza ben zvi
niza ben zvi
haifa theatre
\\nAt the heart of the extensive cultural activity in the city of Haifa, which is a metropolis of cult
bonnie witness
bonnie witness
1030
do nhtinf
RM
Rui Mendes
Grupo Visabeira
Project Manager
AM
Anna Mitrolios
Kanozi Arkitekter, Anna Mitrolios
Projectleader
AS
Angelo Segadaes
iServices
responsible for charging - iServices
Alexandra Burnet
Alexandra Burnet
Quebec Governement
International Affairs Advisor
BG
Benoit Gufflet
Across The Blocks
Co-founder @AcrossTheBlocks, a learning expedition on smart cities: www.acrosstheblocks.com
Paloma Acevedo
Paloma Acevedo
IADB (BID)
Specialist in Urban and Housing Development
ps
priyanka singh
maynooth university
researcher

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$