First and foremost, I am really glad to hear that the government is really open and serious about engaging the public on the population challenges that Singapore faces. Hence, I will do my part by sharing my own personal views on this subject matter and I hope that as a result of my sharing, various ideas can be taken into consideration and certain matters can be taken seriously so as to achieve the objective of making Singapore a place that we can truly call home.
Being a true blue Singaporean born in the 1980s era, I have noticed and witnessed for myself how Singapore have transformed itself and the emergence of issues that we face especially in this new decade. Through frequent discussions and conversations with my peers, friends, and colleagues, what I share here might be reflective of how other locals may feel and I warmly welcome inputs and constructive criticisms and/or suggestions.
The Conversations and Discussions
Through my frequent interactions with peers of my age, friends born in the 1980s, and colleagues whom either belong to the 1960s/1970s era or the 2000s generation, there were a few common points that were mentioned and they are as follows:
• Locals generally do not feel a sense of belonging to the country anymore.
• The high influx of foreigners has a social impact on locals as reported in the many recent cases of locals having conflicts with foreigners.
• Locals have a sense of insecurity due to the competition for jobs, education, and housing.
• Locals are unhappy with the efficiency of basic infrastructures such as the congestion of public transportation which also brings along with it frequent breakdowns and delays, the long-waiting time for healthcare services in polyclinics and hospitals, and the worsening telecommunications network where telephone companies are not meeting its service standards such as delivering what it promises.
Of course, there are also other nitty-gritty issues that were brought out such as the rising costs of Certificate of Entitlement (COE) for cars and the recent high-profile scandals involving civil servants but essentially, it is important to address issues which are more foundational in nature.
The Present Situation from a Citizen’s Point of View
Locals today have a sense of resentment towards foreigners and I am not even surprised at all. With a huge influx of foreigners taking up Singapore Citizenships (SC) and Permanent Residencies (PR), there has been quite a lot of discontentment amongst the locals here, especially when the locals deemed it unfair and felt that the immigration policies were lax. The whole situation actually worsened especially when the needs of locals are not met and basic infrastructures are not efficient enough to meet the demands of an already overwhelming population.
The very essentials of human needs are housing, education, transportation, healthcare, and a career. These are the basics of what constitutes a person’s life and/or threshold requirements. However, when one of these needs is compromised, a sense of insecurity ensues and there is a pressing need to address these issues.
Competition for Housing, Jobs, and Education
With the influx of new SC and PR, there has been a huge demand for housing, jobs, and education. This is quite evident when we see newly launched Housing Development Board (HDB) Build-To-Order (BTO) projects oversubscribed, job vacancies declining, and locals competing for limited vacancies in neighbourhood schools. With these issues, this has led locals to become insecure about the government’s policies and also led to distrust as locals felt that the government was not looking after their interests.
Inefficiency of Basic Infrastructure such as Transportation, Healthcare, and Other Essentials
Transportation and telecommunication companies are generally controlled and/or regulated by the government even though they have been privatized. Hence, there tends to be a connection between government and these companies when the companies in question are not performing up to expectations. It is important that the government ensure that the local’s quality of life are not compromised and manage the costs and issues of these infrastructures accordingly such that it does not add on to the costs of living unnecessarily. In the eyes of the locals, when the costs of the infrastructure goes up, they expect better services and better returns and/or benefits. If expectations are not met, then discontentment will arise.
The Present Situation from a Government’s Point of View
It is without a doubt that Singapore will eventually experience the challenges of a shrinking and ageing workforce coupled together with the low local birth rates and longer life expectancies. With this, it is almost for sure that Singapore will need to continue taking in foreigners so as to sustain the current rapid development. Since this is the case, there are a few questions that need to be addressed:
• How much foreigners are truly enough to sustain the current pace of development?
• Has the government considered the social impact on locals due to the influx of foreigners?
• How can the social impact on locals be minimised due to the influx of foreigners?
It is widely-known that locals shun certain jobs in certain industry because of long working hours, low salary, and poor working conditions. Is there a solution to solve this problem besides employing foreigners in these positions? Well, I’m pretty sure there are lots of solutions to entice the locals to work in these positions such as providing a slightly higher salary.
While taking in foreigners may help to alleviate the situation temporarily, it is important to explore a more permanent solution to mitigate the long-term effects of having too many foreigners in Singapore.
What could be done?
Locals today are more educated and they have higher aspirations for their future. Hence, most locals tend to get married at a later age, resulting in lower birth rates due to the passing of the child-bearing age. Starting a family should be one of those aspirations but apparently it is not so.
To increase the locals’ birthrate, more ought to be done to engage locals born in the 1980s and beyond. While there have been many incentives and/or bonuses scheme offered to locals, not many locals are fully aware of these benefits. A booklet on all the available schemes could perhaps be distributed to locals at various stages of their life or a one-stop service centre be created to monitor the local’s utilization of these schemes. Besides communicating these benefits to the locals, it is also important to communicate these schemes to their employers as well. What the government supports and encourages may not be fully supported nor welcomed by the local Small Medium Enterprises (SME) or foreign Multi-National Corporations (MNC). Hence, incentives or benefits could be looked into to recognise companies that promote healthy work-life balance and carry out pro-family initiatives.
A change in the locals’ mindset is also necessary as well. Parenthood is a big responsibility and there may be many locals whom are just not prepared to take that big step of faith. More assistance could be given in this aspect where locals are introduced to the concept of family planning and parenting. With the recent trends in social media, bloggers whom are parents themselves could play a large role by sharing their parenting experience and parenting skills with those whom are planning start a family.
While all these benefits, schemes, and tools are in place to promote an increase in birthrates, the objective may not be fully realised and/or achieved as there might be other contributing factors at play. Using the animals as an example, animals only mate when certain conditions are fulfilled; be it internally or externally. While locals may prepare themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally for the process of procreation, the external environment must be fully ready and prepared as well. If the external conditions are not optimum, then procreation is likely not to take place no matter how prepared an individual is on the inside. This external environment that I am referring to is the satisfaction and happiness of the locals in Singapore. The government needs to ask themselves the following questions:
• Are the locals happy and satisfied with the current environmental conditions to want to make Singapore their permanent home?
• How can a harmonious and cohesive society be built with the influx of foreigners?
Many locals do agree with me that our uniquely Singaporean way of life is slowly losing its identity and that is especially true as the influx of foreigners are slowly melting away our uniqueness. How can we then still be uniquely Singaporean while at the same time, inject new SC and PR with the DNA of the locals? Truly, this will take quite some time and a compromise must be reached between the locals and the new SC and PR. Are the locals prepared to do that? Are the new SC and PR willing to put down their old former life and adapt to the new way of living in Singapore?
It is important that we as Singaporeans rediscover our roots, our culture, and our way of life. The old heritage and history lessons of Singapore ought not to be forgotten but rather, still strongly emphasized in our education and teaching of the young. It is with this that I really hope that Singapore in the next 5 years and beyond can become a place where all of us can truly call our home. OR, will we be like what my parents always said to my brothers and I, “Singapore has no more opportunities available. The cost of living is rising and foreigners are soon taking over the place of Singaporeans. It is better that you all immigrate to other countries where there may be more opportunities.” I hope this is not the case.
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