Social cohesion has become an important public goal in many countries across the globe, not only in the Western hemisphere, but also in Asia. Despite the growing political and academic interest in the concept, there is no generally accepted definition of social cohesion. As a result, empirical insights are lacking. Against this backdrop, the Bertelsmann Stiftung has initiated the “Social Cohesion Radar” which now, for the first time, presents empirical findings on South, Southeast and East Asia.
The study provides an analysis and review of social cohesion in 22 Asian countries in a comparative perspective. It presents a valid and reliable measurement of current and past levels of social cohesion and explores its most important determinants and outcomes. As an extension of the Social Cohesion Radar series the study will be of interest and value to policy makers, academics, think tanks and civil society organizations.
All things considered, the Bertelsmann Stiftung's new publication, "What holds Asian Societies Together? Insights from the Social Cohesion Radar", covers much new territory and provides an excellent introduction to the topic. It should be required reading for all observers, commentators and students covering Asia."
Social cohesion is the quality of social cooperation and togetherness in a territorially delimited community that is expressed in the attitudes and behaviors of its members. A cohesive society is characterized by resilient social relationships, a positive emotional connectedness between its members and the community, and a pronounced focus on the common good.
Social cohesion is a quality of societies that makes them robust, sustainable and livable. Therefore, the coherence of the social fabric has become a key policy goal around the globe – not only in the Western Hemisphere, but also in Asia. Despite growing interest in this concept among policy makers and researchers, no generally shared understanding of social cohesion exists. Most importantly, empirical findings are lacking. For these reasons, the Bertelsmann Stiftung developed the Social Cohesion Radar (SCR), a multidimensional measuring instrument that integrates different facets of cohesion.
The Social Cohesion Radar (SCR) is a multidimensional measuring instrument that integrates different facets of cohesion. It offers an empirical comparison of social cohesion in 22 Asian societies. The SCR is based on a broad set of indicators drawn from comparative international surveys and other data sources. It breaks down the concept of social cohesion into three domains — social relations, connectedness and focus on the common good. Each of these domains comprises three measurable dimensions: social networks, trust in people, acceptance of diversity, identification, trust in institutions, perception of fairness, solidarity and helpfulness, respect for social rules, and civic participation.
According to the Social Cohesion Radar (SCR) Hong Kong and Singapore are the most cohesive societies in Asia, followed by Thailand and Bhutan. A moderate level of cohesion was found in most of the countries in Southeast Asia, while the South Asian countries evince the lowest levels. Overall, the analysis shows that social cohesion is strongest in Asia in the economically most advanced countries. However, there are also less developed countries with a high level of social cohesion. In addition, it is clear that none of the societies studied is strong in all aspects of social cohesion. Each has its specific strengths and weaknesses.
Economic development and prosperity strengthen social cohesion in Asia, poverty and discrimination against women weaken it. Economic prosperity, human development (especially education and life expectancy) and gender equality are key factors fostering social cohesion in Asia. Conversely, extreme poverty has the strongest negative impact, followed by discrimination against women.
Social cohesion affects a number of important developments. One of its positive effects in Asia is that it promotes economic productivity, reduces unemployment and provides prospects for a better life in the future. Moreover, cohesive societies are more effective in allocating resources to promote public goods. Here one can observe a cycle of mutual reinforcement. Societies that are more prosperous are, on the whole, more cohesive, and more cohesive societies are more economically productive.