Technological innovations and other transformation processes are changing our societies at an unprecedented pace. What effects does this have on social cohesion and how can it be strengthened? At the invitation of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, experts from Asia and Europe discussed these questions in Singapore.
On 31 October and 1 November, a High Level Round Table on "Inclusive Innovation and Social Cohesion in Asia and Europe" took place in Singapore. The event was organized in cooperation with the Singaporean-German Chamber of Commerce. Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam was invited as a Guest of Honour, and participated in a closing dialogue session. At the conference, 26 renowned representatives from business, politics, academia and civil society in Asia and Europe discussed how economic and social innovation can strengthen social cohesion. Besides Senior Minister Tharman, the event was also attended by the German Ambassador to Singapore, Ulrich Sante, and the President of the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad, Claus Trenner. The Bertelsmann Stiftung was represented by Executive Board members Liz Mohn, Brigitte Mohn and Jörg Dräger.
The discussion focused on the question of how the technological and social change forced by the megatrends of globalization and digitalization could be shaped in such a way that as many people as possible could benefit from it and the cohesion of society could be preserved. There was a consensus that inclusive innovation is more important today than ever, because globalization and digitalization are fundamentally changing all societies.
Effective measures to strengthen cohesion were mentioned in the discussion: The promotion of contacts between different population groups and equal access to products and services. Equal opportunities and social advancement are also of great importance. In Singapore, public housing also plays an important role. The promotion of affordable housing for all ethnic groups, who often live together in a neighborhood, is a factor that contributes greatly to the cohesion of society here.
Senior Minister Tharman highlighted Singapore’s efforts to promote inclusive innovation and strengthen social cohesion. He stressed the importance of a proactive state, as it cannot be left to the markets to bring about social inclusion and cohesion. Rather, upstream interventions in the social foundations of broad-based prosperity, including in the areas of education, healthcare and housing, are needed to support social mobility and social cohesion. Senior Minister Tharman also explained that a large degree of income inequality was between the more productive firms and less productive ones, and stressed the importance of the role of the state in spreading innovation from the frontier to the rest of the economy, and facilitating collaboration between firms to create inclusive economies.