Thursday, August 31, 2006

Alien Nation

In the USA, when you become a PR, they give you a card that identifies you as a Resident Alien. This is widely known as the Green Card (although it’s not actually green, but pink; maybe once upon a time it used to be green). I got this card almost a decade & a half ago, when I got married.

Theoretically speaking, I have been an alien* for more than half my life. My parents moved here when I was barely out of toddlerhood. My dad was, what you would today call, a foreign talent, who left his home country to seek a better life for his kids. He & my mom landed here, liked it & decided to call it home. With his qualifications, he found a job here, & made a comfortable living. He became PR of this country & by default, so did my sister & I (mom was already Singaporean by virtue of birth). I only naturalized when I turned 21 due to some sexist ruling that said that only a Singaporean dad can sponsor a PR minor to become a Singaporean. So I had to wait till I became an adult before naturalizing on my own merits (i.e. doctor-to-be – therefore desirable citizen, I assume ☺).

Growing up, I was never made to feel different by my Singaporean friends. For all
intents & purposes, Singapore was home to me, despite my different colored IC & foreign passport. There was no talk of whether foreign talent was good or no good; my family & I were accepted for what we were (& still are!).

Hence all this recent discussion about foreign talent bemuses me. When did it become such a controversial issue? And why?

I remember in the 70’s, construction workers & cleaners/sweepers were made up mainly of locals. Somewhere between then & now, foreigners took over these “undesirable” jobs, presumably because Singaporeans were unwilling to take up menial jobs & dirty work. Hence foreign workers filled this niche. I didn’t hear anyone make any noise about that.

If the government hadn’t made it an issue in the recent years, would it be so hotly discussed now? Would people be more accepting of the fact that sometimes, you have to look at the person & what he/she can do instead of looking at his/her passport before deciding if he/she is deserving of working in this country?

After all, if these people are willing to uproot their families to make their living here, & there are employers who are willing to hire them, why the fuss? Could it be that the jobs being talked about now are higher paying ones, & not cheap labor.

I truly believe that if you have the ability, the desire & the qualifications to do a job, you WILL be able to get the job that you deserve. So I don’t see why Singaporeans are making such a big deal over it, unless they are not confident of their own abilities to get the aforesaid jobs in the first place. But then, that is a different kettle of fish altogether, innit? ☺.

*part of the reason why I adopted the moniker “aliendoc”


igakunogakusei said...

In the UK, immigration laws are now such that any non-UK/non-EU citizen will only be considered for jobs if

1) there are no suitable UK/EU candidates to be found;

2) the non-citizen is demonstrated to have something to offer above that of any UK/EU citizen.

It's selfish, but I can see where this is coming from, especially when there is a huge influx of foreigners who are seen to be taking up jobs that the locals want.

So other countries protect their own citizens - why shouldn't Singapore, or any other country for that matter, protect theirs too?

There are downsides of course, e.g. lower quality workers from lack of open competition. But I think there has to be a balance. It's not ideal if it gets to the stage where your MPs are "foreign".

aliendoc said...

Oh yes, of course we have to protect what is ours...but should it be at the expense of NOT hiring a suitably qualified (or superiorly qualified) person just because he or she doesn't hold a S'pore passport?

The sentiment on the ground seems to be anti-foreign talent in general - key word being talent.

I don't think the government would want to take in any Tom,Dick or Harry from wherever they may be - they would need to be suitably qualified

Dr Oz bloke said...

I think one problem is the word TALENT.

We don't have to call foreigners talent lah. They are just people like you and me and every other Singaporean. You have foreigners doing menial jobs, you have foreigners doing white collar jobs, you have foreigners as CEOs etc etc etc.

Why do we have to call them "talent"?

I don't see this "foreign talent" term used on other countries.

What I don't like is that the government tells Singaporeans that without these foreign talents, we would be nowhere. It tells Singaporeans that these foreign talents are more important than Singaporeans.

Singaporeans KNOW for a fact that it is BETTER to be a foreign talent with an option to go to another country and yet live in Singapore enjoying all the benefits of Singaporeans (those that matter, who really bothers about whether they are able to vote anyway?) and not having to pay anything in return eg National Service and yes those disruptive-employer-frowns-upon Reservist In Camp trainings every year!!!

So if you ask me today, would I be happier being a Singapore PR than a Singapore citizen? The answer is a resounding YES!!!

In fact I did ask ICA whether I could renounce my Singapore citizenship and then apply for PR later! They told me I would then be unable to travel out of Singapore because I would have no passport!

So until I get citizenship in another country, I need my Singapore citizenship if I want international travel abilities.

The government knows this. But so do many smart people. Which is why we see many Smart Singaporeans getting PR in other countries.

They may still stay in Singapore, but they know that MORE options is always better than only ONE option.

This is one of my long term goals as well.

Aliendoc, perhaps you don't feel it because you already have this dual option as we speak. But can u imagine being stuck with ONLY one option? Being Singaporean? Listening to how the government is going to woo "foreign TALENT"? Makes me wonder what kind of Singapore we will have in the future.

igakunogakusei said...

Aliendoc, being suitably qualified is of course an implicit criterion, given the choice of the word "talent".

Or are you suggesting that our MPs are not qualified? :p

aliendoc said...

iggy: no comment on the MP question :)

dr oz: it's true that I have more options than most of my fellow Singaporeans. However, I still treasure my red passport. The fact that I am female & don't have to do NS probably has a lot to do with my sentiments. So maybe the fundamental issue is that of NS? That S'poreans are upset that foreign talent do not have the obligation to serve in our military service? But then, if one is truly loyal to one's country, then the fact that you CAN serve your country should be considered a privilege rather than a bane, & that foreigners should be allowed to serve Singapore (by contributing economically) in their own way. After all, in order to fight for one's country, one should at least feel some kind of patriotism too.
Maybe here's another way of looking at it: Milk the foreign talent for what they can give us, but why should they be given the right to defend Singapore unless they are loyal to the country?