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2018 National Values Assessment in The Straits Times (Press Release)

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Published on

30 June 2018

Singaporeans describe humour and fun as important in National Values Assessment survey

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans have been found to value humour and fun more now than three years ago, according to the results of the third National Values Assessment survey published on Monday (July 30).

Humour and fun did not rank among the top 10 in the previous iterations of the survey done in 2015 and 2012.

The findings were made known at an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) round-table discussion and media briefing on Monday at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Bukit Timah campus.

In the study conducted between March and May this year, 2,000 Singaporeans were asked to pick from a list of values, beliefs and behaviours, 10 words each that best described themselves, Singapore society currently, and their notion of the ideal Singapore society. 

Besides humour and fun, Singaporeans picked health, compassion, honesty and family, among others, as values and behaviours that best described them, suggesting an increased importance placed on their personal well-being.


The study was conducted by local business consultancy aAdvantage and Britain-based Barrett Values Centre.


Miss Sharul Channa, a stand-up comedian of more than eight years, said that the increased value Singaporeans place on humour and fun does not surprise her.

"As our society grows, we have more expectations of ourselves and of the system. The cost of living is going up and I think our society is realising that it's important to laugh and let off some steam," she said.

"I feel that it is a response to external pressures and Singaporeans just need an outlet, which is humour and having fun."

The survey also found that Singaporeans consider close connections and relationships as important, as they selected values such as family, friendship, caring and compassion to describe qualities that best described themselves.

But when asked how they view their fellow residents here, the results indicate a dissonance between what Singaporeans see as their own personal values and those of society's, which they suggested in the survey are largely "kiasu" (Hokkien for "afraid to lose"), complaining and competitive.

These attributes were among the seven "potentially limiting" ones that aAdvantage and Barrett Values Centre identified in Singaporeans' perceptions of their society that could be harmful in excess.

Complaining was a new value added into this year's study, but the attributes of "kiasu", competitiveness, materialistic, blame, "kiasi" (Hokkien for "afraid to die") and self-centred were all present in the 2015 survey.

Said NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser: "While basic needs will always be important, it is heartening the survey provides evidence that Singaporeans do want our society to be defined by higher-order values like compassion and respect.

"We need mutual support and a strong sense of solidarity to overcome the more negative values like complaining, 'kiasu' and 'kiasi' found in our current culture that are barriers to that aspiration."

When asked to indicate what they desire of Singapore society, effective healthcare was found to remain a priority for Singaporeans in society today, alongside affordable housing as well as care for the elderly and disadvantaged.

There were three new additions to the list of top 10 desired values that were not in 2015: dependable public services, educational opportunities and respect.


Here are the attributes listed according to the frequency of responses in the survey:


Family, health, caring, friendship, responsibility, honesty, happiness, compassion, balance (home/work)*, humour/fun*.

*The new items replace "positive attitude" and "respect" from the 2015 list.


​Kiasu (afraid to lose), complaining*, competitiveness, materialistic, educational opportunities, blame, kiasi (afraid to die), self-centredness, care for the elderly*, effective healthcare.

*The new items replace "education opportunities"and "peace" from the 2015 list.


​Affordable housing, care for the elderly, compassion, care for the disadvantaged, effective healthcare, caring for the environment, dependable public services*, educational opportunities*, concern for future generations, respect*.

*The new items replace "quality of life", "peace" and "employment opportunities" from the 2015 list.

This article was first published in The Straits Times on 30 July 2018.

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