Each year, thousands of well qualified Singaporeans move abroad to look for work and a large majority of them stay on with many becoming citizens of that adoption country. Today, we feature Fadil, a Malay engineer who could not find ready employment here and yearn to search for opportunities abroad. There is clearly some form of racial discrimination against the Malay community here.
Describe a bit about yourself e.g. personal particulars, educational qualification, work experience.
I am a Malay man reaching 29 soon. I have an engineering Master’s from a local university, a year’s experience in project management (contract job) and have been in the wilderness of unemployment for 2 years now.
Where are you living now and why do you choose that location?
I’m still here in Singapore. Your article on Ms Asha was quite inspiring, so I’m taking baby steps to apply for a work visa as per our email correspondence. Sometimes I wished I made the move much earlier to spare myself the tedium of job applications and fruitless interviews.
It is a downright depressing experience – most of your readers will readily identify with this classic line delivered with conviction andHollywoodpanache. “You will hear from us in 1 or 2 weeks”, a month or more has passed and still not a call from them.
Did you face any adjustment problem initially when you make the move? Any regrets so far?
How is the family coping currently? Are they happy or do they want to move back to Singapore?
All of us are still based in Singapore unfortunately. My family’s financial situation isn’t too bad, but I’ve long sensed that my contribution was sorely missed. I have been actively looking for a full time job, but nothing has come out of it. Employers conveniently give the lame excuse that I am overqualified or not experienced enough for any entry-level jobs.
The truth is employers have only foreign workers in mind. Even if they can barely muster a proper statement in English, to employers they’re gold. The government must be held solely responsible for this and much more, but their “efforts” (if one can call it that) to correct their mistakes are at best, commendably laughable. There will always be loopholes that employers can exploit.
What precious lessons did you learn from living abroad? Will you do it again if given the choice?
Although I have never been overseas before, I’ve talked to a few of my friends who had such experience. They gained independence, learnt to view life and work differently and more positively as opposed to the Asian mindset and most importantly, are maximising their potential to the fullest.
Opportunities like these do not exist here inSingapore, more so for people of my race.
Was it difficult to get jobs while staying abroad? Describe your job search experience and how different it is from Singapore.
The general feedback is that the job market is far more positive and employee-friendly in Australia/New Zealand as compared to Asian countries. Please let me get back to you on this once I’m inAustralia?
Do you want to return to Singapore eventually or prefer to settle down in your new place permanently?
If I had a choice, I wouldn’t choose to leave Singapore at all. My parents are not in the best of health, especially my mother. I can’t event count on my siblings to take care of them either. Ideally I would be close to my parents while raising a family of my own.
Now it seems that too many factors have conspired to drive me out of my own country. The foreign “talents”, high costs of living, the very thought of taking out enormous bank loans just for a house, racial stereotyping and discrimination, the list goes on. It is often said that the problems of today are harsh indicators of the state of the future – I can’t find any evidence to dispute this statement. It will probably get worse in the future, so the only logical solution is to settle down in Australia permanently. When my financial situation is more stabilised, I will bring my parents over to retire in comfort. They deserve it.
What are your main reasons for wanting to move overseas?
Here are my top five reasons for wanting to move overseas.
Top of the stack – the unfavourable job market and job security. Other than the obvious social problems associated with the foreign “talents”, employers generally (or prepare to) drop you at the most minute sign of economic hardship. Your contributions count for nothing if you’re not at the top of the pecking order. With employers are mercenary as them, is it any wonder staff loyalty is now a luxury premium?
Second, the Asian mentality that is terribly obsessed with work and professional success. The whole “work-life balance” concept is nothing more than a farce. Employers literally drive their subordinates to the floor. They are expected to work harder, faster and for longer hours. All in exchange for measly petty gains like a miniscule profit margin. If you don’t comply, there is that Filipino, Indian, Chinese or Myanmarese who would gleefully take over your position. Reservist makes it even harder to swallow – be gone for two weeks and you might find your position usurped.
Worse is this insistence that one is equally conversant in Mandarin. The stance that most employers take is of blind and illogical subservience to all thingsChina, as if they are going to conquer the world one day. To me, only English is the medium of instruction and business, while Malay is our national language.
Third, the ever increasing cost of living. I don’t think this needs further explanation.
Fourth, stagnant wages. I can’t stomach the fact that Singaporean professionals, except those in finance, are amongst the lowest paid in the world. Further, in tough economic times, you would receive a sizeable pay cut (if you’re unlucky to survive retrenchment), but employers keep theirs to the minimum. When the economy recovers, theirs would be the first to be reinstated to pre-recession levels and even receive generous bonuses. Where is the justice? I would rather work in a country where my skills are recognised for its worth, and not just serve as some disposable statistic.
Fifth – 30-year loan for an HDB flat. Add 10 years if you’re buying your own car. How does one start a family while servicing hefty loans? Plus, not even first time couples are guaranteed a roof over their heads.
All five reasons are highly inter-related, even a secondary school student can see there are some political undertones. In any case, it would be hard enough if not impossible, to carve my future inSingapore.
What is your advice for those Singaporean migrants who have newly move abroad?
First of all, my heartiest congratulations. You’ve made that bold step towards achieving your dreams and aspirations. It also means that such opportunities to pursue that passion or interest probably don’t exist inSingapore, which is hardly surprising.
My advice is, as a guest or a newly minted citizen in another country, you should do your best to assimilate into their culture. It doesn’t mean changing your accent overnight or pretending like you’ve lived there all your life though. Many of us felt highly indignant at the way the immigrants and foreign “talents” have muddied our national identity and attempted to turn our own country into their backyard. So spare a thought for your newly adopted country.
Any last words from you?
I used to foolishly think that we were living in the best country in the world in terms of security, jobs supply, education, political stability and whatnot. But I’ve woken up, this is the new and constant reality. We Malay graduates, no matter how highly qualified will always face discrimination or unjust stereotypes in the workplace and society. The labour market here is intensely cruel, our political leaders no longer of the character, integrity and humility our country deserves and the weight of expectations from a time long past will surely crush your backs in today’s context.
An ex-university mate succinctly described my situation in one line. “Why restrict yourself toSingapore?”. I was dumbfounded. I realised I had unwittingly set invisible limits on myself. Fortunately, I still have youth and health on my side, so I can still afford to take a gamble by venturing overseas. For my Singaporean brothers and sisters, I would encourage you to do so too, especially if you have a young family or are still single.
End of interview and thank you.