Saturday, 17 May 2014

Foreigners in our Midst: Xenophobia?

Singapore’s Foreigner Problem
A sharp rise in the foreign population has ratcheted up racial tensions

Does Singapore have a problem with xenophobia? It seems that barely a month goes by these days without news reports highlighting friction between Singaporeans and foreign workers in the tiny, multi-ethnic city-state.

The population has increased dramatically in recent decades thanks to an influx of foreigners, who now make up around two out of five residents. This has put a growing strain on jobs, housing and infrastructure, and raised fears about the dilution of the Singaporean national identity.

It has also—predictably—resulted in an angry backlash, with many taking to social media to disparage foreign workers, from highly paid “foreign talent” to heavily exploited laborers from China and the Indian sub-continent.

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Xenophobia in Singapore – Myth or Reality?

Xenophobia is generally defined as an intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries. What was initially described as a psychological disposition of people towards foreigners has in recent times been ascribed to intergroup relations in the context of mass migration.

Economic factors could also play an important role in determining attitudes to foreigners. At times of economic boom migrants are needed to fill in shortages of low skilled labor, deficiencies in qualified staff or for a quick transfer of technologies through the import of professionals. Migrants are at best tolerated during times of plenty, but when resources become scarce they could be considered the cause of problems.

In Singapore, comments in on-line forums recently have been labelled xenophobic and netizens have been advised to exercise caution in commenting about migrants.

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Singapore’s Population Debate Grows Heated
A government White Paper calls for Singapore’s population to hit 6.9 million by 2030

Edwina Lin is 24-years-old and happily married, with a young son turning two this year. In Singapore, a prosperous city-state with a dismal birth rate, this is becoming increasingly rare.

But it’s not all smooth sailing. Lin, a financial planner, and her family are currently living with her parents- and brother-in-law; five adults and one child squeezed into a four-room flat in one of Singapore’s many public housing estatesShe and her husband, a travel sales agent, have applied to buy a five-room flat in a newer estate that will only be ready in 2016. Until then, there isn’t much to do but work, earn as much money as possible and save up. They‘re expecting to have to take out a 30-year mortgage to pay for their home.

It’s a common tale among many young families in Singapore. Property prices have skyrocketed in recent years, and citizens have yet to feel the effects of the “cooling measures” adopted by the government. It’s a bitter pill to swallow as wages stagnate and the income gap widens; all while the country continues to record positive economic growth.

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ARE SINGAPOREANS XENOPHOBIC?

Singapore has been beset by charges and counter-charges of xenophobic attitudes towards foreigners. A major financial center, regional economic power, and playground for the super wealthy Singapore has carefully crafted its image as foreigner friendly with welcoming immigration policies. The rapidly rising level of foreign born residents has prompted a variety of concerns by many Singaporeans with charges and counter-charges of xenophobic attitudes.

Immigration provokes strong feelings around the world for both rational and irrational reasons. It is important however to put immigration, the benefits, and the costs in perspective. The United States has the largest absolute number of immigrants in the world with 46 million but also one of the highest numbers as a percentage of the total population among large countries. Only Canada and Australia have higher relative numbers with 21% and 28% of the population foreign born as compared to 14% in the United States.

Small countries generally have higher levels of foreign born population than larger countries. This happens for a couple of reasons. First, there are numerous prosperous but small countries like Monaco, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. As people generally prefer to migrate somewhere prosperous, these countries are magnets for migration. Second, given the law of large numbers, relatively small numbers of immigrants into a small country can have large relative impact. For instance, Monaco has less than 25,000 immigrants, but that represents 65% of the total population.

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Do we need more foreigners in Singapore?

Crowded trains and the cadence of foreign accents – the increase in Singapore’s population size is hard to ignore. Especially when you recall the halycon days – when trains were empty, and Singlish was popular.

Earlier in May this year, the Police Workplan Seminar held a dialogue with about 200 junior college and polytechnic students. They raised the question of whether foreigners should take up roles as police officers in Singapore. More than half of the students who attended the seminar opposed it, while fewer than ten students were for it.

Based on statistics from Ministry of Manpower, the percentage of foreign workforce stands at 37.83% (as of December 2013).

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L.A.M. on whether Singaporeans are Xenophobic

The people and government officials who accuse Singaporeans of xenophobia have taken our good nature for granted. For 40 years Singaporeans have never rioted or went on strike. The first non-sanctioned strike in modern times involved only Mainland Chinese bus drivers. The first riot since independence that resulted in many torched vehicles was committed not by Singaporeans but by Indian foreign workers. Another strike we had that involved SIA pilots was instigated by Malaysians who, subsequently got their PRs revoked by none other than Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew.

When I read news like how anti-foreign protesters are burning down factories in Vietnam, I question whether Singaporeans are really xenophobic. Despite our grouses against an increasingly foreign population crowding out our infrastructure and job market, we do not burn factories or murder foreigners or push aliens onto subway tracks

In fact, Singaporeans are far from xenophobic. When Mainland Chinese, Huang Na was murdered by a Malaysian on local soil, we opened our wallets and donated enough money for her mother to buy a bungalow. When a Thai girl fell onto the MRT tracks and lost her legs, we donated money to cover her hospital fees and more. When disasters occur in neighboring countries, Singaporeans are always among the first to offer help and relief.

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A victory for the xenophobes, and a sad, sad loss for the rest of us

Lucky Plaza on a weekend

Just this morning (26 May), organisers withdrew their application to hold a Phillippine Independence Day celebration event at Ngee Ann City.

The organisers were embattled by xenophobic netizens who harassed the organisers on their facebook page - netizens who were goaded by sites such as 'Say “No” to an overpopulated Singapore' and The Real Singapore.

These same netizens are cheering the move as a victory for Singapore. Some comment, “Hoseh Liao! Singapura Huat Ah!!!”


Comments on higher paying jobs going to PRs not xenophobic

Mr Tharman, who is Finance Minister and MAS chairman, was speaking on the sidelines of a dialogue with Indian students at Hwa Chong Institution. He told reporters the local core in banking is “not just about numbers”.

“It’s about proactive career development, and making sure that Singaporeans are represented in the areas of the banks which are going to see growth opportunities,” he said. “It’s making sure there is a good spread of opportunities for Singaporeans within the different banking functions.”

Without going into details, the minister said differences in hiring mixes between the banks have been observed. “Some of them have Singaporeans much better represented in the range of functions. In some others, Singaporeans tend to be very much in the middle and back office,” he said.

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Xenopohobia rearing its ugly head again

I was astonished over a petition to stop Filipinos from celebrating their Philippine Independence Day in Singapore. The first thing that came into mind. Why? True. Underlying, there are issues at hand that we feel are unfair to Singaporeans such as an over reliance on foreign workers and for some, perceived bias towards foreign workers from the same country. However, that should not have translated into removing all their rights to celebrate their own national day.

Some have compared this to other countries but seriously, Singapore by itself is unique in a sense that we have so many races living and working together. We also have many religions that are practiced in Singapore. I would have thought that by now, Singaporeans would have racial and social harmony embedded within our lifestyle and behaviour. We ourselves have also organised Singapore Day in many other countries. If the group has their event activities determined and have gotten permission from the relevant authorities, why can't we let them enjoy themselves for that day?

There is a difference between nationalism and xenophobia. This is definitely not nationalism.



Bursting of the Population Bubble in Singapore

Singapore is overpopulated. This is neither an issue up for debate, nor a biased perception held by Singaporeans - it is a fact backed statistically in terms of population density (ranked 2nd in the world), anecdotal evidence in the continuous breakdowns in public infrastructures and the resulting inflation from the increase in domestic demand. Being the only one responsible entity culpable for the bubble, the PAP government brought in an influx of foreigners calling them talents, so they could depress wages, bring up property prices and rapidly increase the government revenues and salaries of the Ministers and MPs. The result is everything any government wished for and the PAP became obsessed with the amount of taxes and CPF they are collecting each day. The PAP created the population bubble and it is now bursting.

The key question behind a population bubble is what happens when it burst. Like the housing bubble and credit bubble, the sole similar financial impact that concerns every one is a heavily damaged economy that will take years to recover. The artificially inflated domestic demand will eventually cause a runaway cost of living, which already tops the list of grievances of Singaporeans. Resulting from the similar demand, the public infrastructures are giving way and causing more inconvenience. Competition for jobs and wages intensified and created an employment environment based on cheap wages and low productivity as employers become more interested in getting foreign worker quota than improving their company operations or getting new machines to be productive.

The social costs from the population bubble is more prevalent. Stories like employers terminating Singaporeans in preference for cheap foreign workers become a norm, and it is no surprise that the yearly-released statistic shows that Singaporeans unemployment rate is always higher than Permanent Residents.

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Criticizing govt policies on immigration isn’t xenophobic

Are Singaporeans Xenophobic? Singapore has been beset by charges and counter-charges of xenophobic attitudes towards foreigners. A major financial center, regional economic power, and playground for the super wealthy Singapore has carefully crafted its image as foreigner friendly with welcoming immigration policies. The rapidly rising level of foreign born residents has prompted a variety of concerns by many Singaporeans with charges and counter-charges of xenophobic attitudes.

Immigration provokes strong feelings around the world for both rational and irrational reasons. It is important however to put immigration, the benefits, and the costs in perspective. The United States has the largest absolute number of immigrants in the world with 46 million but also one of the highest numbers as a percentage of the total population among large countries. Only Canada and Australia have higher relative numbers with 21% and 28% of the population foreign born as compared to 14% in the United States.

Small countries generally have higher levels of foreign born population than larger countries. This happens for a couple of reasons. First, there are numerous prosperous but small countries like Monaco, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. As people generally prefer to migrate somewhere prosperous, these countries are magnets for migration. Second, given the law of large numbers, relatively small numbers of immigrants into a small country can have large relative impact. For instance, Monaco has less than 25,000 immigrants, but that represents 65% of the total population.

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The racial, foreigner discomfort

In a report titled “No Indians No PRCs’: Singapore’s rental discrimination problem”, on 1 May 2014, the BBC said that “there were more than 160 housing adverts on the website PropertyGuru that clearly stated that the landlord did not wish to rent to Indians and/or mainland Chinese.”

The reasons given for this apparent discrimination based on race are varied. Some landlords believe that tenants from India or mainland China “are not people who are house proud”, says the WSJ, citing what an estate agent told the paper. “Many don’t clean weekly, and they do heavy cooking, so dust and oil collect over the months,” the agent reportedly said. “They may use a lot of spices that release smells people don’t like.”

But is it racism or racist to not want to rent out one’s house or room to any particular race for practical reasons of cleanliness or potential costs, for example? Perhaps race is incidental in such matters rather than the reason?

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Drawing a line

How much anti-foreigner sentiment do we have to take in Singapore? When will we take a stand against unacceptable, hateful language? Or will we continue to excuse ourselves time after time? It is true that life under the PAP system has caused many problems. Their immigration policy has had a massive impact on Singaporean society; something that they should have, but failed to, anticipate. Their stifling of public discourse have maintained a false harmony, silencing experiences and keeping Singaporeans from having important discussions on matters that affect our lives and our country. We are paying the price for the smothering of our political consciousness; in terms of political maturity we have so far to go as a nation.

The cost of living is a constant, nagging worry at the back of everyone’s minds, and the salaries we receive each month do little to soothe these worries. Without job security, many Singaporeans suspect that their jobs could be in danger any time, taken by (probably) younger foreigners who are able and willing to work for less. Our once-efficient systems, such as the MRT, don’t seem so efficient or reliable anymore. The over-crowding adds to the stress of living in a city like Singapore, and people are frustrated and anxious for their future.

I can understand these frustrations. There is much that the PAP has to answer for.

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PA's initiatives to integrate new immigrants & Singaporeans

Having more dialogue sessions and roping in youths to help are some initiatives the People's Association Integration Council will roll out to strengthen ties between new immigrants and Singaporeans.

This was announced by the council's adviser, Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, at a forum on Integration and Naturalisation Champions on Saturday.

Over 250 Integration and Naturalisation Champions (INC) shared insights on community integration at the forum.

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ROAD RAGE DRIVER MARK FRANKLIN APOLOGISES TO ALL SINGAPOREANS

I refer to the article: "ROAD RAGE EXPOSED: SUNTEC CITY RED VESPA ANG MOH MARK FRANKLIN"

My name is Mark and I am the person involved above, First and foremost, I want to apologise to the anonymous driver with whom I had the disagreement shown in the video, and to all who felt offended after watching the silent clip.

I humbly admit that I reacted in an inappropriate manner and I deeply regret my response. I lost my patience and for that I am truly sorry. I would like to stress that in the years that I lived in Singapore, I have built close friendships with many Singaporeans and have greatly enjoyed living and working here. I have absolutely no prejudices against the people of Singapore, or of any other population.

Precisely because of the affection and friendships that link me to Singapore, once again I hope that my apology will be accepted by the anonymous driver and by all.

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Road Rage Exposed: Suntec City Red Vespa Ang Moh Mark Franklin

Yet another road rage incident involving an Ang Moh motorist happened on the roads of Singapore! According to the Singaporean victim Tay, the arrogant motorist flashed his middle finger and hit his car just because Tay tapped his horn (once) when the motorcyclist did an illegal U-turn.

Is this the sort of thuggish behaviour we expect from our foreign talents? Regardless of one's wealth and standing, one is expected to abide by the laws of the land you are in. The motorist's total disregard for fellow motorists and his arrogance pissed off many Singaporeans. Many have since called for the authorities to take swift action against him.

Alas, no action was taken against this brazen motorist for his bad behaviour till today. Because of the authorities's reticence in doing justice, The Unseen Singapore felt compelled to stand up for our fellow Singaporeans. Without further ado, we present to you, Mark Franklin, the Suntec City road rage motorist.

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Foreigners in our Midst
– Today: Meritocracy is the operative word in hiring cops, foreigners or not
– Musings From the Lion City: Foreign-born Singaporeans, Not PRs
– Likedatosocanmeh: Real reason behind recruiting foreigners as police officers
– Just Speaking My Mind: Is Singapore Safe with Foreigner as Policemen?
– Five Stars and a Moon: Longing for a belonging
– Singapore Notes: The Grapes Of Wrath
– Singapore Notes: Foreigners In Uniform
– Unseen Spore: Road Rage: Suntec City Red Vespa AngMoh Mark Franklin

– TOC: Booting out the (local) boys in blue – is that the key issue?
– Today: Before deciding on hiring foreigners as cops, consider these issues
– Sgpolitics: PM Lee needs to clarify his statement Spore belongs to everyone
– Loh & Behold: Why Condo Ads Show Local Women with Ang Mo Men?
– Spore Alternatives: My Dear PM, Spore doesn’t belong to Foreigners
– My Singapore News: The thinking of a non nation state
– Yours Truly Singapore: False pretext of nipping the bud
– TOC: The racial, foreigner discomfort
– Jeremy Chen: Rental Discrimination in Spore: More Economic than Skin Colour