Since I landed in Sydney about five days ago via a Scoot flight, I have been bombarded with emails asking me about migration to down under.
Some friends have even checked with me personally days before my flight and I dare say I can even start a thriving migration business here!
Most who enquire on migration also cites that they prefer the work life balance here than back home in money-crazy Singapore…for them its just too shallow to always work and think about making more money for the rest of their life.
Some are even satisfied to work in a factory here than being a work-crazy executive back home!
There are just too many enquiries to answer personally so I decided to pen a short article on the migration situation here.
However, I am no migration expert so I must add a caveat here that if you need expert opinion, you should speak to the Australian embassy in Singapore or a professional migrant agent.
I must also state for the record that its now easier to marry an Aussie citizen and apply for PR status as a spouse applicant than go by the long and winding route of applying for the coveted difficult-to-get 457 skilled work visa or PR status.
I have met up with a Singaporean friend here last year during my bi-annual trip and he has decided to marry a Malaysia-born Australian citizen whom he knew for a few years on and off.
Long sick of the system back home and enjoying every moment of his stay in Sydney, I do not blame him for his decision.
“What can I do in Singapore?” he asked when we sipped free hot coffee last year at Rhodes Ikea.
It was one of our many long chats we had together as he was on a visitor visa still and thus could not work.
Before his venture in Sydney, he has worked in our NLB library for four years earning a paltry $4 an hour despite having a engineering diploma.
He applied for many jobs but not many employers have called him up for an interview and even if they did it was always negative.
He is only 36 years old but look younger than his age though on the chubby side.
“I don’t have many options back home, Gilbert,” he told me in dismal resignation. “Migration is one of the best way for me to start something afresh for myself.”
His estrangled distant relationship with his family is also one major push factor for him to venture abroad – with both eyes open as he knows that getting a job will be difficult for foreigners.
Many Singaporeans have return home after experiencing prolonged unemployment for a long time or staying under employed indefinitely as most senior positions will go to the local Aussies no matter how experienced or capable you are.
Those who long to migrate must be clear in their mind that their career will have to take a back seat as most local companies will only place their own people in senior management positions – however good the foreign executives can be.
But is marrying someone the best way to do this? I asked my friend.
“Well, if we love each other – what is stopping us from pursuing our dream?” His dream is to emigrate to Sydney whereas his girlfriend probably wants to get a husband.
I figure that my Singaporean friend is counting his blessing now after marrying his Aussie Chinese bride as if not he will still be slaving away in our icy cold library earning a miserable $4 an hour stacking up books.
He figures that if he stays behind in Singapore, he can’t even buy a BTO HDB flat or marry a local girl as his salary is just too low even for himself to survive let alone starts a family of his own.
However, I always feel that emigration is not for everyone. I have heard of some friends who returned to Singapore after staying abroad for a while.
The ultra slow-pace lifestyle, racism and loneliness are but some of the factors that deter many Singaporeans from hanging on in a foreign land. You often don’t feel belonged as this is not your country and feelings of being second-class citizens are too common.
The Aussie government has also recently clamped down on foreign talents and work visa for this year alone has a quota of less than 80, 000. They used to be in the mid 100, 000 range but due to severe voters’ protest at the polls, the number has been dwindling steadily since.
This figure also includes those who come in as refugees using either the Sri Lanka sea-vessel way or simply fly in as a tourist and apply for refugee status through the embassy.
Unfortunately, Singapore does not consititutes as a war-torn refugee country yet.
Unless you are already staying here and studying, chances are the elusive visa will slip you by.
Graduates of local Aussie universities also have a one-year window period to look for jobs immediately after graduation but I heard its really tough as fresh graduates are inexperienced and thus not in demand.
Some fresh foreign graduates I heard have even touted themselves as non-salaried interns in the bid to try and get into the companies here to chalk up valuable work experience.
But, more importantly, they hope that the companies will apply for them the 457 skilled visa which will usually last for four years – they can then later apply for PR after working for a minimum of two years here.
In Australia, companies have to provide proof that they have advertised and interviewed a reasonable number of local Aussies before they can apply for foreign talent to come in and work so the skilled 457 work visa is really tough to get even if employers want to apply for you in the first place.
It is so different from our system of mass work permit application for foreign workers to come in by the thousands without any proper check and control system. This system needs to be tweaked so that we only bring in foreigners who have skills that we do not possess.
Currently, our foreign talents perform tasks that local Singaporeans can do e.g. receptionists, human resource managers, tele-marketing executives among others. They are competing with us for jobs and not really providing skill sets that we do not have.
I don’t see the point of bringing in MNCs who continue to hire predominantly foreign workers – they probably only fatten their own corporate accounts and local Singaporeans don’t benefit at all from their business relocation .
Back to the Aussie visa application, I have heard of some fortunate Singaporeans getting the coveted 457 skilled work visa when they apply for it back in Singapore – especially if they are in niche skills such as engineering, medical and nursing.
A friend whose PRC wife is a nurse managed to get a work visa within 2 months and her PR within 6 months upon arrival. Her husband is however less fortunate and has to make do with a factory job despite being a graduate and doing relatively well in Singapore prior to his departure to down under.
His nursing wife’s pay fortunately doubled once she signed on the contract and she is now enjoying a better lifestyle compared to back home when she is slaving away in our public hospitals.
For those who are younger and serious about working in Australia long-term, the best option is to get a nursing diploma or degree, work in our local system for 2-3 years and then apply through a employment agent who will do all the necessary paper work for you.
Australia is in serious shortage of experienced nursing and medical staff so if you are keen on working abroad, this is the best option available for you.
Another viable option is to look for work in the mines in Western Australia.
Again, the relevant skill sets and qualification apply - how many Singaporeans have this niche mining work experience and engineering qualification?
A fresh geological engineer can expect to start at A$100,000 per annum before tax but the work condition is harsh.
Mine engineers are expected to work and stay in the mining quarters and they work on a 2-week shift system to facilitate efficient work flow.
Australia probably has one of the best work life balance system in the world. People hardly over work here compared to slavery-like Singapore whereby employers treat their workers like digits.
Workers are protected by their respective unions and there is an efficient independent Ombudsman to look into the interests of workers if there is a work dispute.
Shops all close by 6 pm except for Thursday – the only day that they stay open till 9 pm.
Most stall assistants here are also local Aussies as they are all paid a minimum wage for survival reason - debunking the myth back in Singapore that our own local people do not like to become retail assistant.
I always believe that if you pay the right wages people will work at whatever jobs you throw at them.
Most contruction workers, bus drivers, cleaners, retail assistants – jobs that are normally perform by foreign workers back home – are carried out by local Aussies here.
If Australia can why can’t we?
Written by: Gilbert Goh