The politics of language: How can we mainstream social justice vocabularies?

How might we mainstream social justice ideas and language, beginning a national conversation that extends beyond more recognised civil society actors? Reflecting on the discourse surrounding migrant rights, Quah Say Jye draws upon philosopher Miranda Fricker’s concept of “epistemic injustice” to propose a shared vocabulary that might allow migrant workers into our linguistic community. He suggests that our semantic choices need to accurately represent the lived experiences of migrant workers, be accessible to them and the general public, and have the potential to pivot towards broader structural critiques.

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What could a fairer migrant worker policy look like?

Poh Yong Han argues that while addressing poor dormitory and food standards for migrant workers are important, they merely represent the tip of the iceberg. Unless we tackle the underlying structural issues that explain why migrant workers “consent” to such poor standards (low wages, high agency fees) in the first place, we are not addressing the root cause of the problem. To address them, she proposes setting a Minimum Income Threshold, and enforcing fair recruitment practices. She further suggests reconsidering whether the Work Permit scheme as it stands is even ethical, and asks if current restrictions (such as tying workers to specific employers) need to be loosened, and whether a fairer migrant worker policy would entail providing them with pathways to citizenship or residency.

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Citizenship in Crisis

What happens to citizenship when crisis disrupts the state’s ability to fulfil its obligations to its citizens, or when citizens find themselves unable to depend on their states for a meaningful guarantee of protection in times of need? Using the emergent COVID-19 pandemic as a lens, Theophilius Kwek considers how states, including Singapore, can do better in caring equally for their citizens – and how citizens can also support each other.

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Il/licit Intimacies: Why The State Regulates FDW’s Intimate Lives

In Singapore, foreign domestic workers (FDWs) on Work Permits are subject to various bio-political restrictions: namely, restrictions that govern who they can marry and whether they can be pregnant.

What explains these restrictions, and why is the state so invested in policing the private intimacies of foreign domestic workers? Poh Yong Han traces through parliamentary debates and newspaper articles to show how these restrictions are informed by a neoliberal philosophy that informs how we view citizenship, and unpacks its consequences.

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The Case For Incorporating Social Analysis Into Policy Design

Paul argues that policymakers need to move beyond numbers-driven, utilitarian logics of decision-making and incorporate a human-centered approach to policy-making. Drawing from Teo You Yenn’s seminal work on the need to understand issues like inequality as lived experiences rather than just statistical data, Paul considers the benefits of a social analysis approach and examines the ways in which it can be implemented in Singapore.

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The Legitimization of Inequality

Meritocracy is generally celebrated as an ideology that promotes equality of opportunity, and hence, seen as just. Xuan Yee interrogates this view by exploring the moral, psychological, and intellectual ramifications of meritocracy when taken to its extreme. He argues that an unquestioned belief in meritocracy is dangerous, for it encourages the successful to justify their own moral deservingness of their position in society, and thus, legitimizes inequality.

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