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Friday April 27th 2018

Returning overseas Singaporean fails to find work and giving up citizenship

“What’s the use of being a Singaporean, when your livelihood is not secured and you need to compete vigorously with others not born here for a piece of pie in your own turf?!”

With that, our conversation continues for almost three hours which swiftly passes us by as the exchange was truly intriguing.

David is a fifty-something single PMET who has live and work in Britain for almost thirteen years…he flashes me his British permanent resident card which carries the tag “No time limit” – it means he can stay there forever and can even vote despite not being a British citizen!

He proudly told me how he voted for Theresa May during the last Brexit election and interjected several times how he wanted to give up his Singaporean citizenship and withdrew his CPF in all sincerity!

I asked him why he bothers to return home knowing the state of affairs we are in now and perhaps it is wiser to hang in there regardless of the situation at UK as there is a proper welfare system operating unlike ours.

“My mother has a second stroke and doctors have given her a year more to live…I can’t sleep at night worrying over her so I told my boss after the contract is over that I will like to be with her until she is gone,” David confided in me.

Nodding my head in understanding, I remembered how I myself has faced the same dilemma with my own late mum who is constantly in and out of hospital for long period when I was away in Sydney for almost four years.

Its a nightmarish experience faces by most overseas Singaporeans who feel very guilty when they are enjoying themselves abroad whereas their loved ones are struggling on the hospital bed in their final weakened state. They want to rush home to be constantly with them and for Asians filial piety means you are accompanying your dying parents till their last breath.

Many have in fact return home permanently to be with their ageing parents and it is often a difficult decision to make – should the family abandons their dream of a better livelihood abroad or harbour enormous guilt later when their loved ones passed away without them standing by their side?

As for David, he has make plans to be with his dying mum and even wish to stay here for the long haul if he can get work but the past few months proved to be trying which eventually forces him to abandon his plan and return to UK.

“Recruitors are looking at my age wondering if I will retire soon. They poke at my resume and many of the interviewers  are not even Singaporeans!”

I told him that his line of work favours the Indians from India and that recruitors will in all likelihood prefers to hire foreigners as the recruitment fees involved will be much better than if they hire a local like him.

“Maybe I should just give up my citizenship and return home as a foreign talent then!”

We also went through the citizenship issue in depth as it is something that is irreversible if it happens. Moreover, no one wants to surrender their citizenship unless something drastic has forced them to do so.

At least 1000 Singaporeans have surrendered their citizenship yearly and I believe they wanted to take out their CPF money due to its complexity and opacity. Its a thorny issue which the government has failed to addressed with confidence and when overseas Singaporeans have already dug themselves in comfortably abroad they will begin the process of completely cutting ties with their birth country.

Living a comfortable lifestyle in UK with their proper work life balance and superior wages, David will not want to  remain in Singapore if not for his mother.

“During the recent London’s Singapore Day, Teo Chee Yuan has persuaded us to return home as the country needs us,” he retorted. “But it all looks like a farce now.”

Our Prime minister and his deputies have gone round the world to try and gather the 200,000-strong overseas Singaporeans together and possibly persuade some to return home but if what David faces is the real challenge many other returning Singaporeans will encounter then they may even want to do what David has seriously considered ie surrender their citizenship and completely cut ties with us.

By all standard, David has done well so far while he is in UK – he has two properties here and one in UK and his savings can last him comfortably for the next two years without him having to work. I doubt he can be as comfortable if he stays on and work in Singapore all along as our wages have lag behind most developed countries by leaps and bounds.

Often working as a contractor, he could earn up to 500 pounds daily and that is like the mid-ranged wages for his kind of trade. He related that he could work for three months flat and then take the next few months off either to holiday or rest in between.

“In UK, nobody will fault you for taking long breaks in your career and in fact it is recommended as it means you are a balanced person and takes care of yourself which is a holistic way of living.”

I told him that if he were to do that in Singapore, he will be immediately placed on the long-termed unemployment list and becomes an untouchable talent.

Speaking eloquently and almost in our famed Singlish slang, my heart goes out to David who is obviously disappointed that he is rejected by his own country when he returns home – full of promise by our deputy Prime Minister in the recent London’s Singapore Day.

Singapore truly faces a urgent employment issue here and if a returning overseas Singaporean like David with specialised skills could not readily finds work then it is better that he remains where he is abroad – at least he can still receive some welfare support if he is jobless in a advanced country, here he may even have to sell his home in order to survive.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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4 Responses to “Returning overseas Singaporean fails to find work and giving up citizenship”

  1. Ray says:

    My salute to David to have the courage to come back to see his mother in this little red dot. My respect to David to be able to maintain & uphold our Asian Chinese culture of filial piety, similarly to u Gilbert. U all r the filial sons of this red dot, a model for us to emulate & learn. It’s a very important value that ones should uphold & keep for the rest of our lives. As a son or daughter, we are forever indebted to our parents for all their cares & teachings.We should never forget the source that have provided us. Thank you Gilbert for sharing this story to us.

  2. Matt says:

    Agreed wholeheartedly!

  3. xyz says:

    S’pore day in London, Oz, San Francisco is a big waste of taxpayer money, costing easily $2 million each just to fly all the PAP VIPs with their bodyguards and pay all the vendors & contractors.

  4. LWS says:

    Yup, that’s one of the reasons why some singaporeans came back. Filial piety. The other option is to bring family member to stay together. However if you meet shitty people who don’t allow your elderly parent to stay. Its pointless to work there anymore. You know the kind of person you are working for and with.

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