25 Aug 2006
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.
Posted by yuen at 8/25/2006 03:22:00 pm