Multiculturalism in Singapore and Malaysia: Approaches and outcomes: approaches and outcomes

Adrian T.H. Kuah, Chang H. Kim*, Stéphane Le Queux

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper examines cases of multiculturalism in Singapore and Malaysia. Through causal sociocultural mechanisms, the authors observe how two countries in proximity, with shared histories and demographic profiles, achieve differing outcomes in regard to social cohesion and competitiveness. Design/methodology/approach: The paper employs case-centric process tracing (CPT) to build a “plausible” explanation of causal mechanisms that can contribute to social cohesion and competitiveness. The authors adopt a common analytical framework to distil the nuances of generalizability and a cross-case analysis in order to ascertain factors that enable multiculturalism. Findings: Different causal mechanisms result in diverging outcomes in the two countries. In managing multiculturalism, Singapore has pursued policy actions emphasizing “integration and pragmatism,” while Malaysia has followed a model of “separation and preferentialism.” Judging by a selected number of established indicators, Singapore's multiculturalism outcomes seem more successful than that of Malaysia in respect to areas of national competitiveness and interethnic tolerance. Practical implications: This paper sheds insights on the policy actions that promoted multicultural integration. The process tracing approach is found to be a useful tool in helping policymakers understand how intrinsic mechanisms can contribute to more/less desirable socioeconomic outcomes. Originality/value: Together with the evidence using the CPT approach, the paper draws attention to multiculturalism evolving through distinctive sets of public policy. The authors ultimately suggest that such policies can be paralleled to the function played by institutions in leading to “varieties of capitalism” and have an impact on achieving cohesive and competitive societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-308
Number of pages19
JournalEquality, Diversity and Inclusion
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Diversity
  • Malaysia
  • Multiculturalism
  • Singapore


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