Semakin Ramai Rakyat Singapura Berhijrah September 6, 2008Posted by ibrahimbaba in ekonomi.
Tags: ekonomi, hijrah, Singapura
More are heading north
Insight down south by Seah Chiang Nee
While Singapore has been successful in luring many of the brightest brains in the region, more and more of its own young profrssionals want out.
A BAFFLING aspect of affluent Singapore, with all its economic finery, is the large – and growing – exodus of its citizens over the past 10 years.
While the hot economy has attracted more than a million foreigners to its shores, its own citizens have been leaving in record numbers to settle down abroad.
Their exit seemed to have taken on a new life in recent years, ironically when the economic growth and the job market were at their best.
In fact, one survey has placed Singapore’s outflow at 26.11 migrants per 1,000 citizens – the second highest in the world. Only Timor Leste (51.07) fares worse.
The explanation is, of course, globalisation, the new borderless economy, which is offering more job options for skilled Singaporeans who want a better life in bigger countries.
But the reason doesn’t end there.
Other comparable city-populations have similarly been affected, but Singapore seems to have been hit hardest of all.
The explanation must involve a higher non-economic priority strong enough to propel Singaporeans away from a stable, comfortable living towards the uncertainties of a new life elsewhere.
Yet this is what is happening, as new statistics have shown.
More educated Singaporeans – many taking their children with them – are leaving or are planning to leave their country, which is itself a traditional haven for outsiders fleeing from trouble.
A recent indication of the scope of the dilemma was the rising number of Singaporeans who asked for a document needed to apply for permanent residency overseas.
It has exceeded 1,000 a month to reach 12,707 last year from 4,996 in 1998, or a rise of 170% over 10 years, said Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.
These people, over the age of 16, could be leaving for good, but they also included students and businessmen, who may eventually return.
In 10 years, they totalled 97,990 Singaporeans (a far greater number if children were included).
The government says about 140,000 Singaporeans are studying, working or in business in foreign countries, which by itself is not a bad thing, given Singapore’s global ambitions. The trouble is many of them may not return.
All the current statistics point to an upward emigration among Singaporeans who apply for PR or citizenship abroad. Some of the PRs, it is feared, may keep their citizenship but have no intention of returning home.
“After coming back, I find that other countries have much more to offer than Singapore, which is very boring,” one youth remarked.
The number of Singaporeans who gave up their citizenship, Wong said, averaged 1,000 a year in the last three years.
Other negative trends that reflect the tenuous link between many citizens and their country are:
> Two-thirds of Singaporeans (aged 21-34) said in a survey that they had considered retiring in another country with a slower pace of life and lower cost of living.
> Among youths (15-29 years of age), 53% are considering emigration. Despite having gone through national education, 37% say they are not patriotic. (Indian youths are the most ready to emigrate – at 67%, compared with 60% of Malays and 49% of Chinese).
> Six out of 10 undergraduates said they wanted to go abroad to live or work, mostly to enjoy a higher quality of life with less stress.
> An ACNielsen poll showed 21% of Singaporeans, mainly professionals, were considering emigration, half opting for Australia and New Zealand.
For this small state with a short history, the steady exit is not just a ‘numbers’ problem which can be – and is being – resolved by substituting Singaporeans with foreigners.
It has a serious security dimension, since the island is defended by its own reservist soldiers after a two-year mandatory national service (NS).
Fewer true-blue Singaporeans means fewer soldiers because permanent residents are not required to serve NS (only their 18-year-old sons are).
A bigger impediment to nation-building is the looser physical bond between today’s generation of Singaporeans and their country. Nearly half of them do not think they need to reside here to be emotionally rooted to the country.
It is estimated that half the Singaporeans who annually apply for foreign PRs – 6,000 to 7,000 – eventually settle down overseas.
The brain drain is serious.
Even if 0.5% of its brightest minds were to leave, it would hit Singapore hard, said Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
“These are bright young people, children of very well-educated Singaporeans. They study overseas now, and the very good ones are right away green harvested by companies,” Goh said.
So why is Asia’s second wealthiest state losing its youths at a higher rate than its poorer neighbours?
“Many Singaporeans leave because of the stifling atmosphere of the country and the political and intellectual lock-step enforced by the government,” said one analyst.
“It would reverse if the government would begin to democratise, and to allow its people to develop their talents – in Singapore, not abroad.”
Importing large numbers of migrants from China and India, most of whom treat it as a study or transit point, is not a solution.
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once admitted: “They come in here, they get an English education ? and they’re off to America.”
However, he seems resigned to it. Recently he told his political party youth members: “As a government, and personally for me and my colleagues, my responsibility is to look after those who cannot migrate.”
With one-third of the population now making up of foreigners, that task is becoming harder to achieve.