Social Policy Reform and Rigidity in Singapore’s Authoritarian Developmental State

  • Lily Zubaidah RahimEmail author
  • Yeoh Lam Keong 


Singapore’s economic achievements have been widely applauded as a model worthy of emulation, particularly by authoritarian and rapidly industrialising economies. Yet, the city-state retains the dubious distinction of being one of the most inequitable countries in the world—in income inequality terms. Singapore is the only developed economy where workers are not entitled to a minimum wage or compulsory retrenchment benefits. However, following the 2011 electoral backlash against the long-serving People’s Action Party (PAP) government, numerous social policy reforms were introduced. But have these social policy reforms been effective in qualitatively addressing income and socio-economic inequality? To address this question, the chapter examines the relationship between the political and social policy dynamics underpinning Singapore’s authoritarian developmental state. The social policy orientation of Singapore’s developmental state is also analysed in relation to other authoritarian and democratic developmental states in East Asia. This comparative approach provides us with the conceptual lens to better understand social policy reforms within the context of an electoral authoritarian developmental state subjected to the electoral and political pressures associated with the forces of economic globalisation.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Government and International RelationsUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Economics Advisory BoardSingapore Management University (SMU)SingaporeSingapore

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