If Society is a sandwich, the Middle Class is what makes the filling.

There is no single definition of the ‘middle class’. In its simplest form, the middle class is the class between the rich and poor. It was the prospering working class that baby boomers grew up in and enjoyed for most of our adulthood. The middle class was the growth engine for most post-war economies where a steady and stable rise of income and quality of life was experienced for the past six decades.

However this middle class is now facing a squeeze as income struggles to keep up with inflation. Retiring boomers who do not have pensions or invested in the past will face an exceptionally challenging future with costs rising beyond their means. Even those with pensions and investments are now wondering if these will be sufficient to support their senior years. In some countries, the middle class is sinking into the lower income rungs as downgrading became the only means to support a livelihood or maintain a decent living when jobs become lesser and harder to keep.

The emphasis on the importance of a middle class in every society is not new. Some 2,300 years ago, the great Greek philosopher Aristotle quoted –

Great then is the good fortune of a state in which the citizens have a moderate and sufficient property; for where some possess much, and the others nothing…a tyranny may grow out of either extreme. Where the middle class is large, there are least likely to be factions and dissensions.”

Yet today the Cradle of Civilization is on the brink of bankruptcy and had been for the past six years amid growing social dissatisfaction and the growth of the new poor emerging from the country’s middle class. I believe Singapore will never get to that stage. But never say never.

A diminishing middle class is a reflection of a growing inequality of wealth, education, jobs, healthcare choices and home ownership. If the middle class is not properly looked after and the evolving issues of the new middle class are being ignored in policy making, then the risk of an eroding middle class will increase and in years to come, similar economic and social problems will surface. To ensure the existence of a healthy middle class, the basic needs of the people must be made available within reachable means and the chances of upgrading are real and achievable.

What should not happen is for a country to allow the rich to continue getting richer, and the poor poorer. Then what will be left of a society is two slices of bread, which doesn’t sound very palatable at all.

JY

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4 thoughts on “If Society is a sandwich, the Middle Class is what makes the filling.

  1. The argument that the middle class could diminish leaving only the top and bottom ends of the sandwich is interesting if and only if there are no way movements from both ends to the other happen. It is possible that there will be progress from the bottom towards the top and likewise from the top to the bottom and the question would be about how sustainable it will be.

    Arguably, it is hard to say of the relative momentum, but so long as there are means of production still available to anyone, I would take the position that it is not all gloom. The efficiencies brought about by the globally connected Internet has to force changes in all the assumptions of distribution of wealth. In fact, what we are seeing is the effect of that very condition. The network effects of a hyperconnected Society, one that is the super organism that covers the whole planet or that of the interconnected world will have increasingly profound impact.

    Ideas and notions of middle class will have to give way to a continuum between the top and bottom. I would posit that there isn’t an arbitrary line marking out the “levels”. And given perhaps another 10 years, as the world truly is hyperconnected, we would be hard pressed to recognize where we came from.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I agree the class concept will evolve with the years as societies (now defined by physical boundaries) transform into highly interconnected and mobile communities. Hopefully policy makers are prepared for this.

  2. I can only think the current system does not work since it has been proven since US and Europe Crisis, the amount of Money being “BURNT” or went into some minority pockets.. It was an unfair system, the top people made serious mistakes and got away with it and they might have pocketed those extra PRINTED money and this MONEY are for FUTURE… how can we reset them .. another war or more revolution in some countries….BIGGER PONZI – they have to continue to let the future people to support it.. if there are not enough support, it will collapse.

    sorry for my unsound reasoning …my personal feeling about the current situation. The BANKERS continue to be protected as they control all the $$$

    1. You are right to point out that the current system is not sustainable but there are too many vested interests and complex links to people who are controlling the economy. The way to go is through transparency. If the system is transparent, it is harder to hide and the people in control will have to be accountable. Otherwise they will be thrown out in no time.

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