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Managing Singapore’s residential diversity through Ethnic Integration Policy

Travis Lim (Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Chan-Hoong Leong (Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Farzaana Suliman (Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 24 September 2019

Issue publication date: 9 March 2020




The purpose of this paper is to explore Singaporeans’ view to a multicultural neighbourhood, specifically, their views on the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP), a housing policy that promotes residential desegregation, and whether this policy has engendered a positive perspective to residential diversity.


A grounded theory approach is used to answer the following research questions: how do Singaporeans feel about residential diversity? Does the EIP influence attitudes to residential segregation in Singapore? What do these attitudes mean for governments and policymakers around the world? The research involved focus group discussions with 27 Housing and Development Board real estate agents, in order to tap onto their vast network of clients and better understand the prevailing sentiments on the ground.


The two major considerations when Singaporeans choose a flat are its price and location. Within the confines of these two factors, however, other considerations like race, nationality and the socio-economic makeup of a neighbourhood will influence their decisions.

Social implications

These considerations can be condensed into the factors of constrained choice and voluntary segregation. By limiting the impact of voluntary segregation, the EIP can be credited with bridging the racial divide. However, with constrained choice being unaddressed by the policy, the emerging formation of a class divide is an unintended consequence.


Because almost all developed economies are culturally plural, understanding Singapore’s approach to residential desegregation offers insights as to how other countries may learn from the Singapore experience in managing and encouraging multiculturalism, especially since ethnic residential concentration can reduce the formation of strong social relationships.



Lim, T., Leong, C.-H. and Suliman, F. (2020), "Managing Singapore’s residential diversity through Ethnic Integration Policy", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 39 No. 2, pp. 109-125.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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