Published on 16 Jul 2021

The CMIO system is 100 years old and needs an update

The Straits Times, page A20

This year is the 100th anniversary of the origins of the CMIO system that categorises ethnic groups in Singapore into Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (for Eurasians and other communities). In this commentary, the writer says that while categorising Singaporeans by race is useful for tracking and research purposes, other flexible identities must be allowed for beyond the four races.

She refers to an essay on the website, titled Race-based Data: Friend or Foe by Asst Prof Shannon Ang from NTU’s Sociology department. Prof Ang’s essay highlights how the government can be more intentional and thoughtful about what race data they collect, but done in a way that does not encourage further discrimination by race. First, recognise that racial categories are not self-evident or immutable and that the process of categorisation itself can drive some of the observable differences between groups. Second, discern when race-based data is useful, and when it is not. Third, release race-based data in greater detail, so that users can contextualise and understand why differences exist across racial groups.

Read the article (for subscribers) here

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Photo: ST