Most Singaporeans agree they can learn from immigrants, but feel the group needs to integrate more into society

Most Singaporeans agree they can learn from immigrants, but feel the group needs to integrate more into society

SINGAPORE - Most Singaporeans generally accept the importance and value of having immigrants, but many also feel that immigrants are not doing enough to integrate into society.

These were some of the findings from an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey on race, religion and language made public on Saturday (Aug 3).

Nearly nine in 10 (87 per cent) of the citizens and permanent residents surveyed agreed that there is "a lot to learn" from the immigrants' cultures. A similar proportion (90 per cent) said it is good to have people of different nationalities living in the same neighbourhood.

Most of those surveyed ( 72 per cent) also like meeting and interacting with new immigrants.


But 67 per cent said immigrants are not doing enough to integrate into Singapore.

The findings were shared by IPS senior research fellow Mathew Mathews at the National Integration Council (NIC) Convention.

In his opening address, Dr Mathews said that comfort levels towards new Singaporeans originally from other countries have mainly been stable.

He also highlighted key challenges in integration, such as the perception of differential treatment and differences in norms and values.

The IPS study polled 4,015 citizens and permanent residents between August last year and January this year, asking for their views on race and religion in 10 areas such as discrimination and level of comfort towards other races.

The study's findings on race and religion were released last month. It found that more Singaporeans now have close friends of another race compared with five years ago, and they are also more trusting of those from different races or religions.

But the study also showed more individuals from minority groups perceiving workplace discrimination, like when applying for jobs.


Speaking on the sidelines of Saturday's event, Dr Mathews said he does not see any "major interaction" between these results and those on attitudes towards immigrants.

"The results on race and religion provide a backdrop that (integration) is not something that is easy. Even among locals there are differences and certain things can exaggerate them," he said.

On the finding that many Singaporeans do not think immigrants are doing enough to integrate, Dr Mathews suggested this could be an issue of perception and visibility.

"In general we don't really see the contributions of immigrants, for example participating in community work or associations," he said.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who chairs the NIC, was the guest of honour at the event, where she spoke to around 190 guests from community groups and immigrant associations.

"Integrating locals and newcomers in our society is an ongoing journey and is part of our evolution as a young nation," said Ms Fu.

She also announced a new workgroup on Singapore's citizenship journey to involve Singaporeans in defining what it means to be a Singaporean.

The workgroup will develop content that explains our values and obligations as Singaporeans and the norms of our society, and create a common understanding of our culture and national history, she said.

It will involve both local-born and naturalised Singaporeans and aim for representative participation.

"We value your input and we invite you to participate in choreographing this journey for new members to our Singapore family," said Ms Fu.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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