IIn Singapore we often hear that that the income gap is the result of meritocracy. Nothing can be further from the truth. The wealth gap represents an unlevel field rather than the superior talents of some to contribute to society. The PAP govt exercise extreme parsimony in helping the poor, sick and disabled but gives handouts to big businesses in the form of low taxes, cheap foreign labor and pro-business policies. At the same time the govt reduced the benefits and protection of our workers and force them to struggle by importing cheaper labor to compete against them and making them endure the rising cost of living. This is how we end up with such a large income gap and an un-meritocratic system.
Meritocracy is destroyed by the advantages of wealth and an unlevel playing field. Workers at the bottom 30-40% in Singapore have the lowest wages in the developed world, live in a city that is 6th most expensive in the world, and have no independent collective power to improve their situation. The system has so many obstacles in the way of people making their way up:
Mr Chan said the Government, however, does not have data to track relative social mobility, which is the proportion of people who have moved up or down the socio-economic scale relative to the rest of their cohort over time.
"This reflects the churn amongst income groups in our society. We do not have data on such churn as it requires longitudinal studies over a long period of time," said Mr Chan.He added that while the Government has tried to track inter-generational movements for social mobility, it has not found any studies to be "particularly complete". [Link]
The PAP often says that social mobility is one redeeming characteristic of its system. But when asked for data on this by an NMP, they admit that they have no data to track social mobility. They are actually in denial of the facts.
Link] plotting the (positive) relationship between inequality and inter-generational social immobility in countries around the world. It shows a strong correlation between income inequality and lower social mobility.
The PAP has tilted the playing field so much, Singapore is now a "haven for the rich" (see previous article). But we should not blame the rich for being rich and resent them for coming here - most of us aspire to be ultra-rich too. If you are rich, you might do the same to move to a place the favors those in the richer classes over the other classes. They are only acting in their own interests and not here to disadvantage any of us - that is not their intention. However, we do expect enlightened leadership to act in a balanced manner so that the system is fair If our income gap remains where it is, Singaporeans with lose faith in the govt and our society will become polarized as trust is eroded. That is a bigger threat to our society than the one we spend $12B to defend against.