Commentary

What’s quality of life for Singapore?

What’s quality of life for Singapore?
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Published: February 27, 7:18 AM
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Our Government’s recent position on increasing the size of the population hinges on the premise that Singapore citizens should be able to continue to enjoy a “high quality living environment” in the future. A denser Singapore could still be “liveable” and with economic growth comes job growth, good prospects and a high quality of life, it said.

What makes for quality living? No two persons think alike on this matter. One may aspire for a bigger car, while another longs for cycling lanes on main roads for a low-cost, pollution-free and safe commute. Rather than assuming what constitutes a high quality of life, let’s discuss what Singaporeans want now and in the future.

International benchmarks exist to guide such discussion. Mercer’s annual Quality of Living ranks cities based on factors such as political, social and economic environment, socio-cultural environment (which includes censorship and limitations on personal freedom), public services and transportation, recreation, housing, natural environment, schools and education.

Last year, the top five cities worldwide ranked by Mercer were Vienna, Zurich, Auckland, Munich and Vancouver. Singapore was placed 25th globally but pronounced the best worldwide for its infrastructure. It is important to consider why Singapore was not ranked higher. Perhaps we can begin by asking: Are we better at the hardware than the software aspects of managing growth?

WEALTH OR WELL-BEING?

The OECD Better Life Index measures the well-being of society. It helps us consider, for instance, should wealth be the end-goal of life?

The index gives a framework for debates on policy formulation. Eleven topics are chosen to cover material living conditions (jobs, income, housing) and quality of life (environment, community, life satisfaction). Indicators define these 11 topics. Housing, for instance, has indicators of rooms per person, housing expenditure and dwelling with basic facilities.

Job indicators are employment rate, long-term unemployment rate, personal earnings and job security. Civic engagement has the indicators of voter turnout and consultation on rule making. This interactive tool allows anyone to vote indexes according to perceived importance and, thereafter, watch how cities perform accordingly.

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