Daily Lessons from Life 02 June 2018 - Will our government listen??
"Commentary: Can education fix inequality in Singapore? If not, what can?
The Singaporean ideology that we are a “meritocracy” where economic success based on hard work and the right academic credentials justifies unequal returns, poses two problems.
First, it entrenches hierarchy, and hence a systemic inequality to which social mobility can at best contribute slightly more diverse members at each level of the pyramid. Overall inequality does not decline, and at worst, those who fail to “make it” up the ladder are considered to “deserve” their inferior position on the social as well as income scale.
Second, in the post-industrial society to which Singapore is inevitably transitioning, a laddered meritocracy and the social divide it subtends impede further economic progress.
Innovation, and response to the disruption it causes, increasingly hinge on entrepreneurship rather than bureaucracy, risk-taking rather than risk-avoidance, diversity rather than similarity, collaboration rather than competition, imagination rather than instruction, contestation rather than conformity, and bottom-up rather than top-down initiative.
In short, meritocracy as currently construed in Singapore, and served by the educational system, is arguably the problem, not the solution, for both economic development and inequality, as it is in other highly unequal rich societies.
We need to look outside the education system for policies that do work to reduce income and wealth disparities. They include higher tax rates on high income earners, levies on capital gains, estates and inheritance, and a stronger social safety net — all of which Singapore has eschewed, believing these would reduce the incentive to work hard, save and invest, and thus harm economic growth.
But high-income Scandinavian countries, Switzerland and Germany, have reduced inequality over decades through progressive universal tax-and-transfer systems that included labour market policies, spending on healthcare and social protection while growing at respectable rates and ranking high on productivity and innovation indices — some even while maintaining budget surpluses and strong currencies.
Some high earners may resent high tax rates, but all citizens benefit from subsidised public services, including health and education, and receive unemployment insurance and retirement pensions.
Recent improvement in Singapore’s still-high Gini coefficient also results not from educational policy, but from increased social transfers to vulnerable groups — subsidies for low-wage workers, the elderly and elderly poor.
But these have been insufficient to narrow the cumulative wide income and wealth gaps created by past policies and market forces. Our post-tax-and-transfers Gini still ranks with the highest among developed countries (lower than the US but similar to the UK), is much higher than those of other small high-income economies (in Scandinavia), and is unlikely to be fiscally sustainable.
However, we have run large budget and current account surpluses for decades, piling up huge foreign exchange reserves that have been well-invested by our sovereign wealth funds. More of these could be converted into social spending that could both increase productivity and reduce inequality.
Reforming the education system — by equalising resources, eliminating streaming, increasing curricular flexibility and minimising social segregation — can reduce inequality and social stratification, and foster the innovation and entrepreneurship required for post-industrial economic growth, only if the deep-seated institutional roots of inequality are addressed.
The political will to do this is what matters in the struggle for a more just and equal society that will benefit all of us."
I find this article explains VERY WELL what our government should be looking at instead of insisting that "the fix is in creating a level starting point at preschool age" as it is still assuming education is the best leveller!!
For me, if nothing else, reinstate the Estate Duty as it is the most effective way to redistribute OLD Wealth quickly n if the offspring of the old rich r good, they can make their own wealth somehow right?
Also the question of: "how bold n imgainative n risk taking is the government willing to try using our trillion dollar national reserves for 'current use'?"
It is instructive to note that when we hv millions og graduates but no corresponding no. of graduate-pay jobs, some of these graduates WILL be doing low wage (labour) vs. high salary (PMETs (n to me, an realistic assumption that "salaries" means higher wages!)) jobs!! And some will b unemployed for a long time!!
Not forgetting if we believed even medical doctors, lawyers, accountants n engineers can be replaced by AI n robots, what r we talking about here??
Inequality can only be narrowed if the current have truly want to create a much bigger pie n share with tje so-clled "less talented but not parasite" have-not!!