SINGAPORE – It is often said Singaporeans are in demand by other countries. And if figures from a pilot project by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) are anything to go by, Singaporeans are just as interested.
INZ’s pilot project, launched on Jan 15, seeks to attract specifically working Singaporean holidaymakers and students. Nearly 80 per cent of the 5,687 registrants by last week are Singaporeans.
According to a spokesperson, INZ does not have information on Singaporeans going to New Zealand “as a direct result of this pilot”, but the numbers will be evaluated over the next few months.
She said Singapore was chosen because of “long-standing and friendly” relations between the two countries, as well as “close political and economic ties”.
Research found Singaporeans a “good demographic match” for the campaign, say, in terms of language and education levels, she added. Singaporeans also have a “strong tradition of studying overseas”.
Sociologist Tan Ern Ser said INZ “may be attempting to attract Singaporeans to try living and working in New Zealand first, before considering a more long-term arrangement”.
He noted that targeting holidaymakers allows for “more flexibility” and contributes to the economy. “Local New Zealanders may see skilled migrants as a threat to their jobs,” he added.
Two weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng told Parliament that New Zealand and Australia are targeting Singaporeans “because we’re honest and hardworking”.
Professor Tan feels that countries could be attracted to the “Singaporean brand” because Singaporeans are thought of as “diligent”, “efficient”, “well-trained” and have a good command of English.
However, while skill shortages continue to exist within segments of the Australian labour market, Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship in Canberra said it is “not looking to Singapore in particular for recruits”.
“Australia is open to skilled migrants but is now operating a more tightly targeted programme,” it said. Recent changes to the skilled migration programme include giving processing priority to employer and state sponsored migrants.
Between 2008 and 2009, 2,703 of Australia’s 171,318 immigrants were Singaporeans.
According to the British High Commission Singapore, the United Kingdom also has no programmes aimed at attracting specifically Singaporeans.
The High Commission, however, noted a “relatively small but significant” Singaporean community in the UK.
This includes fashion designer Ashley Isham and pianist Melvyn Tan.
Last year, 3,525 Singaporean students set off to study Higher Education courses in the UK. The “vast majority” return to Singapore, said the High Commission.
Management trainee Geline Lim, 21, is one who intends to pursue her postgraduate studies in New Zealand.
She said it is “less stressful” there, and there is “more freedom and time” to pursue things outside of study. Her parents have already migrated there because of the “more laid-back lifestyle, better air, scenery and government welfare schemes”, she added.
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