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05 July 2013

Celebrate racial and religious harmony at your workplace this July

05 July 2013

Living and working with colleagues, vendors and customers of different races and religions is a part of life in Singapore. It is an integral component of our social fabric and our workplaces. This diversity enriches our culture and is a source of our strength as a cosmopolitan and dynamic city state.
Celebrating Racial Harmony at the workplace 
This happy state of affairs did not come about naturally. In fact, it is anything but natural – we see examples all around the world where racial tensions have caused great disruption to the peace and stability of those countries, affecting the lives of their people as a result. For Singapore, we also experienced tensions and learnt the hard way before we decided to come together to build this nation as one united people, to prosper and progress. We are now able to enjoy the company of friends and colleagues in our educational institutes and workplaces, regardless of their racial, religious or cultural backgrounds.

Some believe that we have ‘arrived’ and should be more confident of our people’s maturity. We continue to make efforts to ensure that everyone can live and work together harmoniously, not because of a lack of confidence in our people, but because what we have is too precious to be taken for granted.

At the workplace, many of us spend most of our time working and interacting with colleagues of different races and religions. It is crucial that employers and business leaders understand the importance of building an inclusive culture for all to work together in. I know that many companies have made efforts to do so, to be sensitive to the needs of different racial groups and also to recognise and celebrate our differences. For example, I am aware that many companies have provided separate pantry facilities like microwaves, toaster ovens and fridges for Halal and non-Halal food. We also know of companies that have organised fun and creative activities on a regular basis to help their diverse workforce bond and work better together. These activities include setting up internal interest groups, where employees of different races and religions can come together and engage in their hobbies as a team, and also to celebrate the various ethnic festivals.
Some say that we all hold biases for or against others because of their race or cultural backgrounds. Are we then inherently tribal in nature? Do we identify ourselves by our skin colour? Does it really matter? Instead, we should perhaps focus on the things we share – common reference points and shared experiences that bring us together as a nation; that will build into our heritage and identity as Singaporeans.
MOM officers join experts Mdm Lili Ho and Aunty Esther in making dragon beard candies.
MOM officers enjoy themselves at the Malay Kueh-making Workshop.
So how can we contribute? All of us can play a part by thinking about how we can influence those around us, both at home and at the workplace. At the workplace, it is clear that employers and business leaders have a responsibility and are in a position to create a workplace culture which can allow employees to appreciate and respect one another’s customs and cultures. I encourage all employers to take the lead in creating a working environment favourable to your employees. Employees will in turn be encouraged to interact more and come to have a deeper appreciation and respect for one another. This July, I would like to urge employers and business leaders to celebrate Racial Harmony Day in your own workplaces. My colleagues in the Community Engagement Programme have come up with some simple yet meaningful suggestions for doing so. Organise a potluck lunch where colleagues share traditional food from their various cultures. Let everyone come to work wearing their ethnic costumes, and even have a “Best Dressed Colleague” contest.

Do visit the MOM’s Community Engagement Programme website for more information on how to build an inclusive, harmonious and resilient workplace.

I encourage employers to do what you can. Choose to make a difference.

Let’s continue to work together to ensure harmony in our workplaces and in the greater community!

Acting Minister for Manpower
Tan Chuan-Jin
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