Examine the impact that foreigners have on Singapore. In Singapore, there has been a rise in the number of foreigners over the last few years. Foreigners, who include highly skilled professionals, lowly skilled workers, and even foreign students negative impact brought about by them. Foreigners are considered to be a double-edged sword by many Singaporeans. The impact that foreigners have on Singapore can be classified in terms of education, economic, social and political impact.
Increasing the birth rates, increasing the quality of the local students, adding value to our economy are just a few of the many positive impact brought about by them. However, competition in the academic race and contradicting ways of living which lead to social problems are examples of negative impact that foreigners have on Singapore. In this essay, the significance of the various impact will be assessed.
Foreigners, in particular, foreign students have both positive and negative social impact on Singapore, in terms of education. Singapore has used the tagline “Singapore: The Global Schoolhouse,” opening its doors to international students from countries like the People’s Republic of China, India and Malaysia. Many local students have expressed dissatisfaction about how foreign students are fierce competitors in the education race and deprive them of “shining” in the area of academia.
However, the Singapore government has been trying its best to stress that locals should look at the positive side of the picture and examine how this fierce competition will actually help to increase the quality of the students. In the Straits Times, dated January 18 2010, it was reported that Singaporeans are outperforming their foreign counterparts when it comes to studies. Although the recent “Ordinary Level” examination results put the spotlight on the achievements of foreigners, principals and others contacted said that Singaporeans are still at the “top of the tree in this regard. The Ministry of Education has mentioned that while no doubt foreign scholars are very motivated, local students aim high and have been equipped with their own mindsets. They develop the drive to work even harder to beat their foreign peers in the education race. Singaporean students need to achieve even more stellar results to fight for places in the universities. Such fierce competition will undoubtedly raise the standard of Singapore’s education system.
However, it must be noted that these foreign scholars have done academically well in their homelands and have been awarded top scholarships to study in Singapore. Thus, it is inevitable to say that such students do pose a challenge to our local students as they are academically competitive. For example, when the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) Examination results were released last year, the country’s leading Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao used the headline: Top O-Level student again a Malaysian”.
Such issues stir debates about whether foreign students try to “dominate” the field of education in Singapore and leave our locals behind in the academic race. Singaporeans fear that when foreigners dominate the top scorers’ list in major examinations, they are provided with more opportunities, like being given priority for admission into the top-notch courses in the local universities, than a mediocre local student. However, it is not entirely right for locals to express such dissatisfaction as the government says that priority is always given to locals.
For example, in the Straits Times article, “Foreign students ‘don’t deprive locals of places'”, dated 23 February 2000, the Ministry of Education reported that the foreigners enrolled in universities and polytechnics here do not deprive locals of places. So any increase in foreign students will not be at the expense of locals, Senior Minister of State (Education) Aline Wong also mentioned that all local students who qualify will have a place in Singapore’s educational institutions and Singaporeans get priority in primary and secondary schools and junior colleges.
Thus, there is no need for local students to worry about the rise in the number of foreign students. Hence, it is not entirely right to say that the influx of foreign students in Singapore will deprive our local students of opportunities in the field of academia. Another negative social impact is that they reinforce prejudices about immigrants in certain quarters. The way of living of some foreigners leads to the locals becoming upset over. For example, talking loudly in public, spitting and being unhygienic are some of the habits that Singaporeans find hemselves uncomfortable with. This is especially so for the lowly skilled workers who forget that they are in a developed country and behave the way they do in their villages or homes. For example, the Straits Times covered new about social problems brought about by foreign workers. Many locals respondents mentioned things like workers getting heavily drunk at night and chatting away loudly at the void decks of Housing Development Board (HDB) flats.
They also complained of workers talking loudly on their mobile phones on public transport and the more severe problem was that many locals felt that foreign workers like to stare at females. Anger has erupted over such problems leading to a misunderstanding of locals and foreigners. Locals try to stay away from foreigners. Thus there is a communication barrier between locals and some foreigners due to such social problems that arise. Locals cannot accept the way some lowly – skilled foreigners behave and this is evident from the ‘Serangoon Gardens’ incident.
In 2007 – 2008, the government was planning to build a foreign workers’ dormitory around the Serangoon Gardens estate. However, many residents were against the plan and mentioned that they did not like the way the foreign workers behaved and that their standard of living was low and unhygienic. They mentioned that The local ladies will be stared at and harm could befall them when they come home late at night, the workers will hold loud parties and that they will litter and dirty the residential area.
Singaporeans thus feel that they tend to shun foreign workers due to such common social problems they bring about. Foreigners have also brought about positive and negative economic impact. They have brought about a positive impact because they help to increase Singapore’s talent pool. Foreign talent and migrants in Singapore give the economy an extra boost, With Singapore’s small population base, relying on local manpower resources alone will not be enough.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his key annual policy speech broadcast on television that “We allow in foreign workers and new immigrants because doing so will benefit Singaporeans,”. He claims that our economy has become more vibrant and diversified because of foreign workers and that without their participation, there will not be enough Singapore workers to grow the economy. It is also important to note that foreign migrants’ contributions also extend to the sporting arena, where the women’s table tennis team, made up of China-born nationals, had guaranteed Singapore would win at least a silver medal at the
Beijing Olympics. Singapore later took the silver after defeat to China. “Outside of economics, foreign talent also strengthens our ranks in sports. So we cannot rely only on local talent,” Prime Minister Lee has said. Thus, foreign talent has enabled Singapore to be recognized on levels previously thought impossible. Foreigners also provide the needed workers especially in the sectors shunned by Singaporeans.
For example, PM Lee Hsien Loong mentioned that “We need the many foreign workers who work here, to build HDB flats and MRT lines, to work in factories especially on late shifts, and to help man the IRs,” By taking up the jobs that are perceived to be shunned by Singaporeans, foreign workers still bring in capital inflow, hence adding value to our economy in one way or another. However, a significant negative economic impact is that the real earnings of Singaporeans have experienced a drop due to the influx of foreign workers.
For example, it is “relatively easy for fresh engineering graduates to command a monthly starting salary of $2,500 and above ten years ago, but with cheap China and Indian engineers flooding the labor market now, they will consider themselves lucky if they can land a job which pays over $2,000,” as mentioned by a local online magazine, The Temasek Review. A UBS (Wealth Management Singapore) report published last year, in 2009, revealed that the real earnings of Singaporeans have declined by 8 percent between the years 2006 and 2009.
This supports the fact that the persistent influx of foreigners over the years has depressed the wages of ordinary Singaporeans, increased the cost of living and led to an overall decline in the standards of living. Foreigners have also brought about positive and negative political impact. One of the many positive political impact brought about by foreigners is that they enable the government to achieve population increase to help keep Singapore vibrant in the face of an ageing population and also providing a solution to the declining birth rates, caused by pressures in urban life, in Singapore.
For example, in 2008, it was reported in Reuters, an online current affairs magazine, that foreigners are providing a boost to Singapore’s lagging birth rate, with one in four babies born to expatriate fathers between January to June 2008. To increase the productivity of the workforce, the Singapore government has to bring in immigrants and foreign workers to support its economic development. By doing so, foreigners are actually helping to sustain Singapore’s economic development by increasing work productivity, creating more job opportunities and integrating more skills and knowledge in the economy.
However, a negative political impact foreigners bring about in Singapore is that they influence government policy to their own benefit. For example, a few years ago, there was a debate between the Singapore and Filipino government on the low salary of Filipino domestic helpers. The Filipino government set guidelines on the range of salaries that should be paid to them. The Filipino government had also mentioned that they would not send Filipino domestic helpers to Singapore if the Singapore government did not agree to their demands.
Singapore, which is rather dependant on Filipino domestic helpers, had no choice but to adhere to the guidelines set by the Filipino governments. Similar demands were also made by the Sri Lankan and Indonesian governments, thought the various governments had varying preferred salary range. Hence, as Singapore relies more on foreign workers, the government has to ensure that they accommodate to the demands of international governments. In conclusion, foreigners are significant to Singapore as they bring about many economic, social and political benefits.
Increasing the birth rates, increasing the quality of the local students, adding value to our economy are just a few of the many positive impact brought about by them. However, just like how a coin has two sides, foreigners also have negative impact on Singapore, which has led to much dissatisfaction among locals. On the whole, foreigners have a generally positive impact on Singapore as the positive impact examined outweigh the negative impact.