25 Aug 2006

Singapore Immigration

In his 2006 National Day Rally speech, PM Lee Hsien Loong spoke long on immigration: because the low birth rate of Singapore citizens and the shortage of local talent, Singapore has to accept the importation of manpower.

While the two reasons are cogent enough, it is necessary to match them with the situation on the ground. The largest number of imported workers, mostly construction workers, domestric maids, and other service industry workers (e.g., waiters) are on the work permit scheme, which is not intended to lead to long term residence. In fact, marriages between such work permit holders and citizens are discouraged and in any case do not guarantee long term residence.

In other words, immigration, permanent residence and citizenship is not for any kind of manpower, but for educated or highly skilled manpower, of which imports occur in much smaller numbers than construction workers/maids. For example, the management personnel of multinational corporations and anaylists/traders in the financial industry have a high representation of foreigners on employment passes. In recently years, the R&D system has also recruited a large number of expatriates.

These people generally rate Singapore highly as a job assignment location: married expatriates with children find the low crime, cosmopolitan environment and international education system quite satisfactory for family life, while single American and European male expatriates suffer no shortage of female company with large numbers of local girls keen to have Caucasian boyfriends. With good expatriate salaries and the low tax regime, they can save a considerable sum of money during a few years to take home. However, few such people would consider going native in view of the considerable cultural differences.

People of Asian origins who have degrees from universities in the West, maybe with a bit of working experience after graduation, have a greater chance of choosing to settle in Singapore. There are also a large number of students from the region who were given scholarships to come here for undergraduate studies, with the requirement to work in Singapore for six years after graduation.

While the cultural differences are smaller with these people, they come with particular mixes of eastern and western/old and new cultural experiences, which need to mesh with Singapore's own mix of east and west. For example, they might have been exposed to a particular version of politics, social hierarchy and mass media, and might find that while Singapore uses many of the same words, the meanings that the words carry may be different; this awareness might take some years to develop, and in the mean time, they find it difficult to form a coherent picture of the situation around them.

Taking my own case: on the one hand I am one of the long-staying foreign recruits, having been here (and with the same employer) since 1983; on the other hand, both my children went to college in USA and are unlikely to return here to work. Any benefit I might have provided, whether in terms of work or in terms of population numbers, is transient. I also know that a significant portion of the students here on scholarships intend to apply for MBA admission in USA some time after graduation, so that their 6-year employment obligation provides a double benefit: in addition to not having to pay back the financial assistance they received, the work experience is used as MBA admission qualification. They too would only provide a transient benefit.


lee hsien tau said...

When I responded to the WDA invite to attend the Expo in the 'Precision Engineering Industry', it was like what Choo Wee Kiang said, I felt like I walked into Little India. No way to get a job amidst the PAP craze for attracting all and sundry.

If it was so important, why did they get rid of Captain Ryan Goh? He was more than qualified.

Mickell said...

Transient benefit better than no benefit at all.

yuen said...

thank you; makes me feel valued...

but I am sure LHL has more permanent population in mind rather than transient migrants like myself; you need a particular no. each year for NS, among other reasons

Matilah_Singapura said...

All benefits are transient. People act in their own self-interest all the time.

If it is in their interest (and the welfare of one's family is one's interest) to emigrate, they will.

The PAP have not "got it" yet. People leave for many reasons — all personal — but I can assure you one reason is fairly common: if private individuals can find a better life elsewhere without the totalitarianism of the PAP, they almost certainly will.

As for immigration: S'pore competes in the global market for "new citizens". Other countries are also attracting "talent".

blogggit said...

PHILIP RUDDOCK is now Australia's Attorney General.Philip Ruddock is also known as the "Walking Cadaver."
The following is an article from the "Sydney Morning Herald"September, 17th, 1996.
The Government will cap and kill applications by Australians to bring their overseas spouses into Australia a move which would see long-term separations of married couples unless the Opposition allows through the Senate tough new measures to curb applications.
The Minister for Immigration, Mr Ruddock,said the draconian move,allowable under present law but never used in relation to spouses, would help curb huge increases in applications for spouses, some of which were shams, but others 'a fraud on Australians'.
Under present practise,applications for offshore spouses to come are allowed regardless of the quota set.Mr Ruddock wants to enforce his quota by a cap and queue regulation, making applicants after the qouta is reached to wait, possibly for months, until heading the queue for next years intake.
But in the face of Labor opposition in the Senate, he threatened to use his general cap and kill power to terminate applications made post-qouta.This would force Australians to apply again next year on equal terms with next year's applicants, causing indefinite separations.
Mr Ruddock's threat, which contradicts the Coalition's strong pro-family rhetoric but is part of a clampdown on migration numbers,was denounced by Labor's immigration spokeman, Mr Duncan Kerr, as social engineering.
The Opposition last week knocked off in the Senate one of several changes to regulations to tighten elegibility for 'preferential family' migration,available to spouses and aged parents.Mr Kerr told the Herald Labor would also disallow Mr Ruddock's 'cap and queue' regulation.
Mr Ruddock told the Herald that if people who had already applied were allowed in,the progam would overstep this year's 36,700 quota by about 13,000.Rather than allow an overshoot, he would use his general power under current law to cap and kill,unless Labor stopped trying to micro-manage his immigration program by disallowing regulations in the Senate.
Mr Kerr said that 'Australians have always exercised their own choice on who they'll marry,and I don't believe any red-blooded Australian will allow the Government to force couples to queue up to live together.Now he's saying if he can't queue them he'll cut them off.
'If you meet and marry in January,thats OK,but if you're a December bride or groom you mightn't be able to get your spouse in for years.'
Mr Ruddock said he did not regard cap and terminate as the best outcome, but if it is necessary I will be applying it.
He said Labor had maintained a steady 37,000 quota for four years,before lifting it last year to 50,000.Many people had reported partners 'walking out the door as soon as they arrive in Australia.' 'The fraud is being occasioned on Australians by people seeking to migrate,' he said.
Mr Kerr blamed the increase on the wash-up of the Tiananmen Square massacre,under which Labor granted 40,000 Chinese people refugee status.But Mr Ruddock said there rises in applications accross the board, and the percentage increase was as great in England."
JOHN HOWARD-The Lying Rodent.John Howard wants free trade but not the free movement of people.He thinks Australias biggest assets are its sheep, coal and uranium not people.He says he has the final solution to our problems "Too many people."
The Blacklist
"Philip Ruddock gazetted regulations when he was Australia's immigration minister[number S241 of 1997] to stop visitors from many countries coming to Australia and among them is Poland.[Israel is also on the list as well as the following countries-Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Fiji, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mauritius, Nauru, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tonga, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vietnam and Yugoslavia]."
More at

soci said...

I noticed that in the UK that the population has passed the 60 million mark primarily as a result of immigrants. Maybe Singapore could learn a trick or two about attracting people who will actually stay.

This debate that LHL has initiated yet again always seems to pivot on the idea that they want 'professional' immigrants to remain and the semi-skilled to get out after they have completed their contract. Isn't this based on the idea that children of professionals are statistically more likely to go to university and become professionals themselves. Surely the PAP need to start treating every child as equal and realise that children from lower income families can and do go on to university and become professionals.

Accept all immigrants as equals with the potential to contribute to Singapore in different but equally essential ways.

The low income immigrants should be encouraged to get their kids into university in Singapore. Singapore has no problem attracting low income workers why not see them as having the potential to contribute greatly rather than dismissing them as incapable of achieving social advancement.

Is LHL long admitting or at least indirectly acknowledging that social mobility in Singapore is almost non-existent?

Anonymous said...

nice lecture; pity PAP guys prefer to give lectures rather than hear them

Anonymous said...

No, let's be honest about it that minilee did mention in his rally speech about one celebrity hairdresser, who was a Malaysian, has been granted with Sg citizenship on the last Xmas day. He did mention that altho this hairdresser does not meet in terms of qualification but he does have the talent and skills and therefore Sg is offering him the citizenship.

But not too sure whether is it bec he is the mediacorp's celebrity hairdresser, then such privilege is granted. If not, would he be granted or not?

Anonymous said...

It irks Singaporean NSmen like myself who find that the foreign talent policy being rammed down our throat without serious consideration of the impact on Singapore citizens, especially male citizens.

Resources are scarce. When tax payers' funds are used to recruit and sponsor foreign nationals studies in Singapore, less resources are available for Singaporeans. If there are 100 places for a faculty in NUS, if you allocate 30 to foreigners then 30 Singaporeans are deprived of a place in that faculty. Singaporean males have the honour of serving 2 years (previously 2.5 years) of national service mostly in the military plus 10 years (previously) 13 years of reservist liability. These foreigners get highly subsidised education, work for 3-6 years for their "bond" and then disappear back to their countries or onwards to US/UK/Aussie/Canada etc.

Do the EP/WP/PRs integrate with our societies. Even PM Lee admitted Singaporean Chinese and Chinese Chinese have very different value systems and outlook and they tend to stick within their own social groups. Are they going to sink in their roots here and integrate or just turn Bukit Batok, Jurong West into their own enclaves?

Recently there was a case of China PRC man stabbing his girlfriend in public. Is this the type of foreign talents we are attracting?

Our immigration policy is not sufficient robust and clear in terms of defining the types of skills/abilities we want to attract to Singapore. We should learn from Australia/NZ/Canadian systems where they screen applicants quite closely before granting VISA/PRs.

liberation front

Matilah_Singapura said...

Borders of all countries should be as open as possible. People are entitled to go anywhere they choose, settle down and own property anywhere in the world.

People move from the "shitty" countries to "better" countries in their own self-interest...wait for it... A Better Life.

Anyway, why all the fuss? The human species has always been nomadic. Emigration, immigration and the co-mingling of ethnicites has been going on for millenia...and it is always the same jingoistic and xenophobic ideas which arises.

The fundamental problem on earth is that too many people want to control the lives of others.

That's a real bummer.

Anonymous said...

The celebrity hairdresser have been in sg for a darn long time. If its true he was granted citizenship just last christmas, its possible he's been set up as a showcase. Anyway, how is his talent and skill, notwithstanding the recognition of his skills and talent (he is very well-known after all), pertinent to our economic objectives and globalisation? How does the ability of grooming women's hair better got to do with sustaining our economy and competitiveness in globalisation?

Matilah_Singapura said...

Really simple:

Thankfully (giving credit where it is due) S'pore heralds meritocracy. This hairdresser has achieved in his field.

If you think all the fuss about hair is "frivalous nonsense", go have a look at how much is spent on advertising of hair products, as well as the production and marketing. It is not uncommon for a woman to spend $400 on her hair, and perhaps only $100 on the household shopping.

How much is the "hair economy" worth? Lots.

One great thng about capitalism which people take for granted, is that it is a system which delivers "exciting" things like private jets, motor yachts, super cars, super models, nice clothes, fancy tech gadgets, cosmetic surgery, glam, hipness and opulence, thus enhanching peoples' lives with "fun experiences".

Human desires are insatiable. As soon as one "need" is met, the human wants his next "need" satisfied.

The state OTOH more often than not seeks to limit human choice and quash the (natural) human desire to better one's life by having FUN. When the state produces something, it is usually VERY BORING. The state is ANTI-consumer, private enterprise is PRO-consumer.

Hence public housing, public schools, public transport, public clothing (as in commie countries)... all boring when compared to private homes, private educational institutions, private vehicles like Ferraris and Koenigseggs, and privately produced clothes — which offer a huge variety of price and design.

State systems of social engineering try to predict how many engineers, doctors, workers etc are needed by the economy.

Free markets allow individuals to pursue their "happiness" and operates on the fact that each individual decides what is best for her. Theefore you get rock stars, DJ's, basketball superstars, hairdressers, gourmet chefs, porn stars and strippers because of the lack of central planning and the demand by freely acting individuals making their preferences known in the market