Tackling the great social challenge of our time

A new Social Mobility Foundation has been set up at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) at NUS, which will fund impactful research on social mobility and in turn generate new insights and ideas for policymaking in Singapore and abroad.

This was announced on October 1 at the virtual book launch fund-raiser of Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s Standing Tall: The Goh Chok Tong Years, the second volume of his biography. More than S$5.6 million was raised and the funds will be used to initiate the research-focussed Foundation, as well as a new Marine Parade Community Care Hub, an integrated community care hub supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

“The Foundation will fund academic research on income inequality, social mobility, inclusiveness and the dynamics of a fair and just society,” shared ESM Goh who is Chair of the LKYSPP Governing Board and an eminent alumnus of the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “This research into income inequality and social mobility in Singapore and other comparator countries must lead to new policy insights and actionable recommendations.”

To that end, the Foundation will initiate and support policy-relevant research on socioeconomic disparities, policy interventions, populist responses, social cohesion and other factors that shape a country’s social compact. The Foundation will be chaired by ESM Goh, and Professor Danny Quah, LKYSPP Dean and Li Ka Shing Professor in Economics, will lead the research.

“Without social cohesion, those who are currently deprived will feel there is no space for them going forward. They will be permanently excluded from the well-being that society promises,” said LKYSPP Dean Prof Danny Quah. “This is a desperate situation that many nations in the world are facing. We ourselves here have challenges that we need to take on, that we need to confront and that indeed is what the Social Mobility Foundation has been set up to do.”

The School has already begun research on these issues. One example is research on the socioeconomic characteristics of Singapore’s poor and disadvantaged to better understand behaviour and aid in policymaking. Another is the compilation of information on the range of social help programmes in Singapore that seek to place resources directly in the hands of the weak and vulnerable.

The Foundation will help advance this evidence-based research, allowing the School to work with academics, researchers, and policy professionals to develop research projects and outreach programmes aligned with the Foundation’s core mission to inform and influence the policy narrative and thinking on income inequality and social immobility. The Foundation aims to support between 12 to 15 research proposals yearly, developing a data repository that its network of research fellows can tap on, and build upon, for their work. It is currently accepting project proposals which will be evaluated by a panel of independent experts.