Fewer given PR status or citizenship in past 12 months
Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs and Law), Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee in Parliament on 18th May 2010, released figures of Foreigners granted permanent residency or citizenship in Singapore during the past 12 month's.
Between April 2009 and the end of March 2010, there were 46,300 new PRs and 19,300 new citizens. These figures were seen as a decline when compared to figures collated for the previous years. For the whole of 2009 itself, there were 59,500 new PRs and in 2008, there were 79,200 new PRs. As for new citizens, the figure last year was 19,900 compared to 20,500 for the whole of 2008. Fewer foreigners were granted permanent residency or citizenship here since the Government tightened eligibility requirement late last year.
Professor Ho attributed the previous year's taking for large number of foreigners to the country's need to "take advantage of the strong economy to attract and retain suitable foreigners to sink roots here, and to augment our population". However, the Government also recognised and understood the concerns and sentiments of Singaporeans over the rapid increase in numbers and had reviewed the immigration framework to 'better manage the pace and overall numbers' of foreigners here, he said. In our SDS E-newsletter (vol.8) article released on 26 Feb 2010, it featured Singapore's intent to raise Foreign Worker Levies to curb the hiring of foreign workers.
Prof Ho highlighted that eligibility requirements for PR and citizenship applications had also been made more stringent since the final quarter of last year, and some applicants did not meet the new criteria. In addition, even though some may have met the new criteria, but it may take a longer time before they are granted PR or citizenship as the residency requirement has been stretched out in the new framework,' he explained. He continued that for citizens whose foreign dependants did not yet qualify for PR or citizenship, they could apply for long-term visit passes (LTVP) to remain here. Informatively, from 2005 to 2009, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority processed an average of 15,400 LTVPs and 9,900 PR applications annually from foreign spouses of Singaporeans. Of these, 2,200 pass applications and 4,500 PR applications were not successful.
Foreign talent, local package
In relation to employment of foreigners in Singapore, foreigners are finding it harder to get premium expatriate packages as more companies are turning to the local pay scale for their foreign talent recruitment. In a survey of 200 companies conducted last year by HR consultancy ECA International, it showed that 21 per cent of their expatriate employees in Singapore accepted local terms. The percentage is up from 15 per cent in 2008. The trend was also reflected in another survey, by HR consultancy ORC Worldwide. It polled 36 multinational companies here and found that two-thirds have started to offer "local plus" packages - local pay, but with some perks such as partial housing or education allowances.
Despite the shrinking pay packets, fewer perks and allowances, expats in Singapore are still willing to accept these packages. They felt that Singapore gives them a taste of working in Asia, yet it is generally an easy place to assimilate, mainly because English is widely spoken here. Financial analyst Pierre Emmanuel Brard, 26, first came to Singapore two years ago on a contract which paid him in euros including a small housing allowance. Upon his contracts expiry, he was transferred to a local contract, and is now paid in Singapore dollars and has to pay for his own accommodation. However, the Frenchman found the terms acceptable, he explained "I definitely wanted to stay in Singapore because the work here is interesting. Asia is growing so the markets are more interesting than in Europe."