Singapore, June 12, 2020 – In a nationwide survey of over 3,000 Singapore residents, we asked respondents about the importance of certain social norms in their neighbourhoods. These are signposts of desirable behaviours and they reflect the level of civic consciousness in the community.  Residents from smaller housing types value more norms generally, whereas younger respondents place greater emphasis on behaviours that reflect our multi-racial/multi-religious identity and customs.  Greater effort can be targeted at a few under-rated behaviours such as clearing our plates and trays after consuming food at hawker centres, and keeping our corridors and walkways clean and clear of obstacles. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened dengue situation, we should also practise good hygiene by not spitting and littering in public, remove stagnant water at home to prevent mosquito-breeding that give rise to dengue fever, and continue to look out for each other, by volunteering our time and/or resources to help others in need.

Background

  1. The study on social norms in the neighbourhoods was conducted by Principal Investigator Associate Professor Leong Chan-Hoong of the Singapore University of Social Sciences, and was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth as part of Singapore Cares (SG Cares), a movement that aspires to build a more caring Singapore. The list of norms included in this study was inspired by the People’s Association handbook on “Desirable Social Norms for an Inclusive and Harmonious Community” published in 2017.

  2. Public adherence to established norms engenders social trust and harmonious living, especially in Singapore’s densely populated, multi-racial and multi-religious neighbourhoods.Social norms can be broadly categorised according to cultural (e.g., “Burn incense only at designated bins”, “Taking care not to mix halal and non-halal utensils”), civic (e.g., “Remove stagnant water to prevent mosquitoes breeding”, “Refrain from spitting or littering in public”), and public transport norms (e.g., “Gives pedestrians the right of way when cycling or riding a personal mobility device”, “Moving to the back/centre of the bus/train for others to board”).See Table 1, for the full ranking of 40 social norms.

  3. On the whole, respondents living in smaller housing as opposed to larger residential types rated most norms as more important. Older adults, particularly between 45 to 64 years old, put greater emphasis on civic norms, particularly transport-related ones such as “Gives up seats on public transport”, and “Gives pedestrians the right of way when cycling or riding a PMD”. The younger respondents emphasised norms related to cultural diversity.

  4. The findings call for a segmented approach to public engagement and education, with localised messages for a targeted audience, e.g. reach out to food and beverage operators to reduce noise levels at estates with older residents; building greater awareness and understanding of Singapore’s unique ethno-cultural landscape in the minds of new immigrants and non-residents (such as burning of incense, and conducting weddings and funerals at void decks).

  5. The list of norms is not exhaustive, and it should be refreshed periodically. In addition, a broader national conversation is warranted to address evolving manners of which Singaporeans should be cognisant.For instance, just 35.4% of respondents viewed “practices environmentally friendly habits” as “very important”, ranked 28 out of 40, 28.2% viewed “clears own plates at hawker centres” as “very important”, ranked 33 out of 40, and 16.8% viewed “volunteers to organise or help out at community events” as “very important”, ranked 37 out of 40. These behaviours are not featured highly on the civic radar of majority of Singaporeans, and if these norms are to be treated as an integral part of our normative culture, greater public awareness and education becomes necessary.

  6. In light of the spread of coronavirus and rising dengue cases, civic norms promoting social responsibility and keeping Singapore clean and safe have become even more important. These include norms promoting social habits like removing stagnant water to prevent mosquito breeding (which was the top-ranked norm among survey respondents), clearing our own plates and trays at hawker centres and food courts, and supporting those in need. All of us can do our part to adopt these good social habits, look out for one another, and safeguard our public health in Singapore.

Table 1.   Ranking of Social Norms by Percent Rating of ‘Very Important’

Norms

Type of norms

% rated ‘very important’

1

Remove stagnant water to prevent mosquitoes breeding

Civic

73.0

2

Refrain from spitting or littering in public

Civic

72.6

3

Only smokes in designated areas

Civic

68.7

4

Leashes pets and clears their droppings

Civic

62.4

5

Gives up seats on public transport

Transport

62.1

6

Burns incense only at designated bins

Cultural

61.7

7

Ensures garbage is properly bagged before disposal

Civic

61.7

8

Gives pedestrians the right of way when cycling or riding a personal mobility device

Transport

60.6

9

Queues up properly

Civic

58.0

10

Allow others to alight before boarding train

Transport

57.6

11

Ensures excess water is drained before hanging wet laundry outside

Civic

57.5

12

Moves to the back/centre of the bus/train for others to board

Transport

55.2

13

Keep common areas clean

Civic

53.3

14

Takes care not to mix halal and non-halal utensils

Cultural

53.1

15

Reduces noise levels in the evening

Civic

52.3

16

Refrains from using the horn or high beam indiscriminately

Transport

49.8

17

Shows understanding to funerals at void decks

Cultural

49.0

18

Gets along well with neighbours

Civic

48.7

19

Keeps to the left of escalators and walkways

Civic

48.3

20

Shows understanding to weddings at void decks

Cultural

43.1

21

Being conscious of noise levels in public places

Civic

43.1

22

Willing to share their table at hawker centres

Cultural

41.8

23

Holds the lift when someone is approaching

Civic

41.6

24

Shows understanding to incense burning

Cultural

41.2

25

Respects personal space by keeping a comfortable distance from others

Cultural

38.9

26

Would do favours for neighbours

Civic

38.2

27

Proactively offers help to others in need

Civic

36.6

28

Practices environmentally friendly habits

Civic

35.4

29

Interacts with people of different backgrounds

Cultural

34.5

30

Would ask neighbours to keep eye on their home when no one is around

Civic

31.8

31

Smiles and greets others

Civic

29.7

32

Refrains from public displays of affection

Civic

29.2

33

Clears own plates in hawker centres

Civic

28.2

34

Would eat at hawker centres

Cultural

27.0

35

Dress appropriately

Civic

24.8

36

Speak in English when interacting with people of different cultures

Cultural

18.4

37

Volunteers to organise or help out at community events

Civic

16.8

38

Borrows/lends household items

Civic

15.9

39

Able to speak local languages/dialects when interacting with others

Cultural

15.7

40

Participates in grassroots and community events

Cultural

10.3


For more details on the key findings and rankings, please click here.

– END –

For media queries and interviews, please contact: 
Ms Valerie Ng
Senior PR Manager, Communications & Marketing
Tel: 6248 0364
Email: dmFsZXJpZW5nd3dAc3Vzcy5lZHUuc2c=

Mr Tian Zhiyuan
Manager, Communications & Marketing
Tel: 6248 8836
Email: enRpYW5Ac3Vzcy5lZHUuc2c=

About the Singapore University of Social Sciences
SUSS is a university with a rich heritage in providing lifelong, learner-centric and industry-relevant education.  Our mission is to champion lifelong education to develop future thinkers and leaders to their fullest potential through our 3H’s education philosophy – ‘Head’ for professional competency with applied knowledge, ‘Heart’ for social awareness of the needs of the society, and ‘Habit’ for passion towards lifelong learning.

We offer more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programmes, available in full- and part-time study modes which are flexible, modular and multi-faceted in learning experience to cater to both fresh school leavers and adult learners. We also launched a broad range of continuing education and training modular courses for the professional skills and knowledge upgrading of our workforce.

Our programmes and courses are made available through our five schools:

  • S R Nathan School of Human Development
  • School of Business
  • School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences
  • School of Law
  • School of Science and Technology

To date, over 30,000 graduates have chosen SUSS as their university of choice. Each year, about 15,000 students are pursuing their full- and part-time studies with us.

From 1 April 2019, the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) became an autonomous institute of SUSS. Both entities enable a synergistic collaboration as IAL brings to SUSS its expertise and experience in adult learning and Continuing Education and Training (CET), while SUSS provides an ecosystem of resources and experts rooted in academic rigour.

For more information on SUSS, please visit www.suss.edu.sg

Back to top