This has recently become home. And it’s a country infused with the riches and challenges of diversity, with a superficial veneer of homogeneity.
Even the weather! We were told we’d miss the diversity of English seasons; that in Singapore, the weather is always the same. Always hot, always humid. But look closer, and it’s a paradox. There’s nothing samey about thunder so loud you don’t just hear it, you feel it; about torrential rain that doesn’t cool things but heats them, like pouring water on the stones in a sauna.
It’s not just because I’m English that I’m going on about the weather. It’s the comparison I see to Singapore society as a whole. It’s a paradox, in which there’s a superficial homogeneity, and yet look closer and you see what has always been a diverse society, and is becoming ever more so. Fifty years ago, Singapore was fused out of contrasting cultures, and in the early decades following independence, nation building relied on policies designed to engineer homogeneity, while safeguarding allowable difference. And today, Singapore society sees itself becoming increasingly diverse, driven from influences outside and within. Both government and communities are actively seeking how to manage and harness this diversity to sustain the country’s success story.
And it’s a challenge; difference makes a difference. Diversity correlates with success. The business case doesn’t need repeating, and it’s well documented that diversity changes business outcomes for the better. Diversity of thinking, personality, culture, gender, style, sexual orientation, age, experience, background.
But inequality does the opposite, and recent research suggested that Singapore has one of the widest gaps between rich and poor anywhere in the world. And the UK is facing its own growing inequality. The study highlighted that for each of eleven different health and social indicators, from physical health to drug abuse, education to social mobility, community life to teenage pregnancies, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries.