The discussion on inequality must extend to rights too

by Tan Jin Kien

Inequality in Singapore has been widely discussed from different angles such as income, wealth, education opportunities and class. However, the conversation still steers clear of another important aspect, which is the equality of rights.

While the previously discussed angles by many experts and academics, alongside possible solutions to fixing inequality, do carry great merit, the equality of rights can catalyse and level the playing field for those with lower wealth and income.

If single parent families were granted the same rights as those as married parents, in terms of access to subsidised housing and receiving parenthood tax rebates, that would certainly allow parents to focus on the care for the child. The need for unmarried mothers to adopt their own child to remove the label of “illegitimacy” is another a detraction from equality, since married parents are not subject to the same process. If such barriers were removed, the relief provided would enable the biological parents more resources to plan their child’s education and the quantity time needed to raise their child, to whatever degree of care mutually agreed upon.

Similarly for LGBTQ Singaporeans, inequality creates barriers not just in areas such as workplace discrimination and difficulties in acquiring status for foreign spouses. By preventing same-sex marriages for Singaporeans, LGBTQ Singaporeans are barred from access to public housing using CPF funds, which is a wealth creation tool for many young couples. The difficulties in adopting also prevents Singaporean orphans from opportunities they might otherwise have access to, with two doting Singaporean parents, regardless of their gender or sexuality.

It must be noted that credible research explicitly shows that the parents’ gender and sexuality has no impact on whether the children are better or worse off. Rather, it is whether the parents love and respect the child, and if the parents have the resources to care for and educate the child.

Ultimately, to foster true cohesion, inequality should not focus on only opportunities and wealth, but rather identify and broaden the ways in how these options and monies are acquired. By making structural changes that improve equality of rights, upward mobility can be a reality for people of all stratas and economic classes to realise their potential. When this happens, tackling inequality will go beyond lip service.