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YKA, Trends

Fallout: Is Tommy Koh Right About Singaporeans?

While Singapore tops global rankings for affluence, many here will admit we have some way to go before we are ‘tops’ as a civil society. The latest reproach came from Tommy Koh, who said “Singapore is a First World country with Third World people.” Has the Ambassador-at-Large hit a raw nerve with his frank exchange? Apparently yes, as our YKA findings reveal that 4 in 5 Singaporeans agree with him.

Almost half of Singaporeans (49%) feel the way we drive is unacceptable. More than 2 in 5 Singaporeans (42%) believe domestic workers are not treated by their employers in an acceptable fashion. Close to 4 in 10 Singaporeans feel we lack respect for our environment (40%) and the less well-off in our society (38%).

Despite the above, 60% of Singaporeans still feel we are more gracious compared to folks in other countries. Close to 4 in 5 Singaporeans (79%) believe we are considerate when we stand in line. Close to 3 in 4 Singaporeans think we treat our taxi or Grab drivers (76%), teachers and tutors (75%) and people with disabilities (74%) with care and courtesy.

Why do we behave this way? Most Singaporeans tend to be well-mannered when clear social norms exist. As a society, we appear to respond well to laws, regulations, and regular campaigns that nurture social consensus and cultivate behavioural norms. What more should we be doing? Let the debate start.