Singapore as a Multicultural Society
Multiculturalism is one of the most important characteristics of modern Singapore. Thus, multiculturalism in Singapore will be examined not from an abstract philosophical position but from my everyday experience and will be structurally presented with the help of relevant theories and frameworks. Additional attention will be devoted to my personal experience related to the plurality of cultures in Singapore.
Singapore is generally recognized as a typical example of a multicultural society. However, it may be examined from the perspective of everyday experience that makes its analysis much more practically-oriented. I will be more oriented on the impact of multiculturalism on the organisational level as I mostly interact with other people on this level. I will demonstrate how group functioning relates to multiculturalism and the ways of optimising this process.
I deal with multicultural aspects of life in Singapore on a daily level. Even a multilingual character of society demonstrates that all interactions are subject to the influence of various cultures. I will use core cultural dimensions for the presentation of my personal experience (Barzilai, 2005). The first cultural dimension is power distribution. I suggest that Singaporeans prefer decentralised organisational structures; thus, they are opposed to any forms of over-concentration of power. I often observe it in my personal experience. Moreover, I suggest that it has a reasonable explanation. As there are different ethnic groups, such as Chinese, Malays, Indian, etc., there are no universal organisational laws that are equally applicable to all cultures. Therefore, any over-concentration of power and imposition of some principles on the representatives of other cultures lead to inefficient allocation of resources and lower productivity. Consequently, the fraction of centralised companies in the market will diminish, and the fraction of decentralised ones will increase. Thus, even pure market forces contribute to the introduction of this cultural dimension in the business practices of Singaporean organizations. Therefore, some egalitarian features are clearly present. However, they do not refer to the massive government intervention or redistribution.
The second cultural dimension is social relationships (Chan, 2013). I see that the idea of tolerance is central for Singaporeans in this context. People do not try to persuade others to adopt other cultural principles; they respect diversity and choices of others. Tolerant social relationships encourage the network of mutually beneficial exchanges that are crucial for the rapid development of the national economy and trade. In general, social relationships are mostly collectivistic, but their voluntary character is attractive for people from different regions of the world.
The third core cultural dimension is environmental relationships. I know that the majority of Singaporeans pay significant attention to both the natural and social environment as they understand that people are social beings and cannot function in isolation (Stahl, 2009). In my opinion, it demonstrates that Singaporeans are mainly oriented on their long-term interests and are ready to sacrifice some short-term goals if it contributes to significant benefits in the future. It distinguishes Singapore from the majority of modern developed countries, where consumers are primarily oriented to the present moment. It seems that it is a positive aspect for Singapore as such social inclinations allow realizing the most profitable projects and further improve the national comparative positions.
The fourth dimension is time and work patterns (Fortier, 2008). I see that Singaporeans understand the importance of time and try to use it in a rational way. The interest rates that exist in the market may present some approximation of the social time preferences. In general, a polychronic approach is more relevant for Singapore as various organisations adopt different time patterns. At the same time, they are able to efficiently cooperate with one another because each company has a specific operation cycle. I believe that the polychronic approach is more efficient in the era of globalisation as it allows higher flexibility and innovations for companies.
The fifth dimension is uncertainty and social control (Hasmath, 2011). I can see that the majority of Singaporeans try to avoid or at least minimise all sources of uncertainty. In general, only entrepreneurs willingly accept uncertainty as a source of potential profits. However, it does not mean that they do not use diversification of their activities or insurance for a closer control over their risks. Social control is widespread in Singapore. Although people are very tolerant in relation to others, they do allow any forms of improper or socially dangerous behaviour. Therefore, only acceptable forms are socially approved. In this context, the rule-based approach is observed as all members of society are expected to follow the same rules. I think that personal or professional relationships should not intervene with universal laws and social control.
It is possible to use Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s cultural dimensions for presentation of my understanding of the organisational level in Singapore (Mazur, 2010). Relationships with nature may be described as harmony because Singaporeans believe that they should reach balance with nature. Therefore, modern eco-strategies may be highly applicable in Singapore. They may lead to the situation when employees will feel higher responsibility, and their productivity will increase. Relationships with people may be presented with the help of a collateral form as it appreciates the role of group functioning in the global economic system. In order to work efficiently, group members should have common characteristics and social opportunities. Thus, various social groups may arise on different levels. The exact number and structure cannot be determined a priori and will depend on the specific economic conditions.
Additional aspects may be specified using Schwartz’s approach to cultural dimensions. The first dimension in relation to Singaporeans may be characterised as conservatism because almost all the people I know largely depend on their collective and do not prefer any forms of individualism. The second dimension is egalitarianism as it is generally recognised in Singapore as all people have equal moral rights. The third dimension is harmony as the majority of Singaporeans accept the current world with all its positive and negative attributes and work on the improvement of their standards of living.
It is possible to conclude that Singapore is a multicultural country that may be observed on a daily basis. Singaporeans are tolerant people that substantially depend on their collectives and recognise equal rights of all people. Thus, I suggest that organisational performance of companies may be improved if they are able to integrate decentralised structures with a common ethical worldview that is shared by all employees. However, some challenges may emerge due to the fact that the population is very diverse.
This challenge may be addressed by creating a multi-stage organisational environment, where each stage will correspond to similar groups that consist of individuals with similar social experience, worldview, and status. In this way, very different employees may work in the same organisation at different organisational levels. Thus, their cooperation may generate the highest possible positive effects. Therefore, the abovementioned theoretical frameworks are highly relevant for the presentation of my personal experience in a coherent way. Multiculturalism may be considered as an important potential source of the national economic development, especially in the era of new technologies and globalisation. The most important thing is to take into account the needs of all parties involved and adjust organisational structure, accordingly. It may generate the synergic effect that will improve the global competitive positions of companies from Singapore.