SINGAPORE (Nov 2): Conversations about the so-called elite class and elitist attitudes in Singapore have been bubbling for some time. Now, a hard look at Singapore’s focus on meritocracy as the guiding principle of progress could be due.

“Any elite would be deluding himself if he thought that his success is solely his effort,” says Eugene Tan, associate professor of law at Singapore Management University (SMU). “As society becomes less equal, the ability for the better-off to protect and pass on their privilege grows larger. This is often because they are able to transmit their privilege to the next generation.”

And the way some commentators see it, Singapore’s system of meritocracy is “producing some perverse outcomes”.

“Elitism ends up being a phenomenon produced by our system of meritocracy,” says Adrian Kuah, senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

One thing that everyone seems to be agreed on is that elitism is a concern for everybody, across all segments of society. And, observers warn that there is a risk of the distinction between the elites and others degenerating into a class divide.

This could further exacerbate inequality by hampering social mobility.

What, then, can be done to alleviate the challenges of social mobility, and perhaps the hating on the elites, whether deserved or otherwise?

Find out more in The Edge Singapore (Issue 855, week of Nov 5), available at newsstands now.

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