13 December 2018
How do we ensure there is social mobility? Some people suggest that one way is to provide equality of opportunity. The goal should be to equalise opportunities by ensuring that people’s adverse circumstances do not prevent them from advancing.
However, this is conceptually problematic. For example, the efforts of parents can influence the circumstances of children: Rich parents who have earned their money through hard work spend more on their children, which gives those children a better start in life compared with children of poorer parents. Thus, “equality of opportunity” is a slippery concept.
According Vikram Khanna, Associate Editor at the Straits Times, inequalities created by people’s circumstances tend to be seriously underestimated. Unequal outcomes, which perpetuate unequal opportunities, should not be ignored. This calls for higher levels of social protection in areas such as income, health and education.
Higher government spending on education can help narrow the gap in opportunities.
Singapore spends just under 3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on education, compared with more than 5 per cent in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. So one prescription would be to progressively raise education spending to at least 5 per cent of GDP within 10 years.