SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore will be tightening the inflow of foreigners at the Nanyang Technological University Students’ Union Ministerial Forum yesterday. Less foreigners will be admitted as compared with the previous years.
The government has plans to increase Singapore’s population up to 6.5 million in future, which drew criticisms over the ability of the republic to contain the needs of such a huge population without suffering the negative effects of overcrowding.
Due to the tsunami generated from the global economic crisis, it was reported that a number of foreign employees lost their jobs. With a slow recovery anticipated, this could have prompted a change in policy to reduce the inflow of foreigners.
Societal changes and competition for jobs were amongst the concerns of Singaporeans when the government opened its door to foreigners. The competition arises more from the fact that the foreign employees demand lower wages rather than superior qualifications.
This resulted in the depression of wages. Singapore already has a high Gini coefficient at 0.481 in 2008. Critics have called for the implementation of a minimum wage in place, but that would be difficult given the gulf in income disparity.
In adopting an open door approach, policy makers have to be mindful of their effect on the median wages. The equation is complicated by the fact that the costs of living is relatively high in Singapore. Singapore is ranked 10th among the most expensive cities by expatriates in a survey by the Economic Intelligence Unit.
Lee emphasized the need to bring in the continuing flow of immigrants. He cited the curious example of Israel, which, despite a small population of seven million, has the most number of companies listed in the United States stock exchange after the US itself, because it took in talented immigrants.
Israel is clearly a different kettle of fish. The immigration of Jews back to the Land of Israel is known as Aliyah, and is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. Enshrined in religion, many religious Jews espouse Aliyah as a return to the Promised land, and regard it as the fulfillment of God’s biblical promise to the descendants of the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thus, the migration phenomenon in Israel has a religious and cultural meaning to it, and immigrants more or less believe that they are former sons of Israel returning to their motherland.
If Singapore is interested in emulating Israel, the approach shouldn’t be so much an adoption of open door approach to foreigners, but rather an engagement of the overseas Singaporean diaspora, and entice them to return to their motherland, where they will contribute their much needed expertise and resources to aid Singapore’s development. In short, it is a campaign to encourage overseas Singaporeans to make “Aliyah” back to Singapore.