Almost 40% foreigners – where do we go from here?

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The reaction from readers to two articles speak a lot about the sentiments among the public about the issue of foreigners in Singapore.

Is Singapore turning into a xenophobic society?” – 1,045 comments.

Unacceptable nearly 40% of population is made up of foreigners” – 1,236 comments.

The issue is and will continue to be a hot one – until Singaporeans know what the Government has planned, going forward. In response to my article on it being unacceptable that 40% of our population is made up of foreigners, Christopher Gee has mistaken my position and seems to say that I am advocating a sudden, overnight, sacking of all foreigners from Singapore. 

Nowhere in my Yahoo article did I suggest this. But Christopher is right in saying that we cannot remove all foreigners from our island. That is not the position of anyone, except the most extreme xenophobes. So, I think it’s a red herring to offer the question which Christopher did, namely: who is going to do all the work which Singaporeans will not do if we removed all foreigners from Singapore?

Sadly, though, that is also the stance taken by the Government when dealing with this issue. We need foreigners, it says. If we had no foreigners, our economy will go down.

Again, no one has advocated the removal of all foreigners.

This sort of extreme proposition is a chasm in communication between Singaporeans and the (mis)understanding by the Government.

Singaporeans welcome foreigners. Lets get this straight. We always have. We also understand the need to have an open-mind towards foreigners and what they can bring to us.

What we do not want is to see our country overrun by so many of them, to the point where life here is becoming increasingly unbearable. Besides the 5.2 million foreigners here, we also have an average of 1 million tourists every month setting foot on our shores.

While we do not advocate a sudden sharp decrease in the number of foreigners, we do want to know if the status quo will remain, or if the Government even has plans to increase the number of foreigners, going forward.

The problem is that all we have heard from the Government is that we should reduce our dependence on these foreigners, and how Singaporeans should welcome and help them integrate into our society. That is all well and good. I support the integration or assimilation of foreigners with Singaporeans. (However, I would also like to say that this itself presents several problems, especially in the way the Government is going about it. I shall perhaps elaborate on this in future.)

Ask yourself these questions:

1. The Government talks of restructuring the economy. But restructure to what? This is unclear.

2. We have seen tweaks to certain policies, such as Labour Laws (higher levies are charged for foreign workers), education (higher tuition fees for foreign students), and several others. But these are just tweaks, nothing more. Without an overall picture of what these tweaks are supposed to accomplish, what should we be thinking?

3. Wages have been an issue which Singaporeans feel foreigners are depressing. The Government and the NTUC have pledged to up wages for the lower-end workers. But again, these are just tweaks. What is the Government’s plans for the number of foreigners which is the root cause of low wages at the lower end?

We also understand the global competition for talent. But this does not mean that we adopt an open-door policy to attract them. We should be more selective. In the past, the Government said it only allows foreigners with the appropriate talents which Singapore needs and lacks, into our country. But clearly, this is no longer so – even a unskilled, lowly educated foreigner can set up shop here now. So again, we need to know what the Government’s plans are for foreigners like these.

In the end, we can argue about the need for foreigners (which really is not in dispute) or argue about their (necessary) contribution to economic growth (which again is not in dispute).

What we want to know is the big picture – where are we going with all these tweaks and piecemeal “improvements”?

Is that all that Singaporeans can expect – that changes will only be made when things take a turn for the worse for the ruling party, like when it loses a GRC?

Singapore needs leadership with a clear vision to take us forward. As you can see from the 2,000+ comments in the 2 articles mentioned above, many are still not sure where the Government is taking us. The National Population and Talent Division and the Institute of Policy Studies have both offered researched projections of population scenarios for Singapore, going forward. But these aren’t solutions. They are just projections.

It is not an easy issue to resolve, given the spectrum of considerations which it entails – from the low birth rate to wages, from social friction to political consequences.

The best way for Singaporeans and the Government to understand the matter better and perhaps even come to a consensus on how to move forward is to have an open and honest dialogue about the matter. The Government needs to chart a clear road ahead, before Singaporeans can be expected to understand and support such a vision.

At the moment, it seems we’re just stabbing in the dark.


6 thoughts on “Almost 40% foreigners – where do we go from here?

  1. We aimed to be a hub of many hubs: aviation, financial, legal, life sciences, medical, transport, etc.

    Should we diversify and venture into so many areas? The result is the lack of ‘talent’ and manpower so we import foreigners with the attendant problems we are experiencing today.

    Or should we identify a few key industries to make our niche and make best use of our scarce manpower resource?

    There is no dialogue and clear direction on this issue. The government wants to dabble in everything and the people is stretched to the breaking point by the high costs and stress of such a pursuit.

  2. We have to learn how to corner the govt and prevent it from twisting the issue into proportions that we, the citizens, have never intended.

    This is an old lky trick. Remember that bit about how Singapore is headed for economic ruins blah blah blah whenever we touch on the need for more to be done for the aged, sick and down and out in our society. It’s the govt crooked way of arguing a point by ascribing to us meaning and intent which we NEVER were advocating. It’s a dirty trick and we should teach it never to pull it on us again by giving it a lesson it won’t forget at the next GE.

  3. Everywhere we go, we are outnumbered by Foreigners,. The Foreign workers in Singapore total 2 million. What was not reported by the government is that these FTs bring along their wives, children and even their parents to stay here under dependents pass. No wonder we are outnumbered and crowded when we got to the POSB bank, Post offices, NUTUC supermarkets, trains, buses, coffee shops, hawker centres, etc PAP still hearing but not listening….KNNCCB

  4. Singapore is a goner, already down the drain and into the valley through it’s open legs policies.
    There is no more culture, no more loyalty and definitely no future.
    Merging back with our hinterland may be the only way out.

  5. Just last week, a property agent tried to persuade me to buy a property with asking price of 10% above bank valuation. He said that the government was on track to bring the population to 6.5m. With more foreigners or PRs, property prices are certain to go up. Well, it’s clear that a segment of the population is looking forward to more foreigners in already crowded place. Where there are losers, there are winners.

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