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Lessons From The Lion City—Singapore's Immigration Policy Favors Natives
The petite-autocracy of the Republic of Singapore had an immigration problem and popular resentment against an elite imposition of high levels of immigration. Popular sentiment objected to the impact immigration had on Singaporeans and instead of fighting its people, the government responded. Immigrants were taking jobs and driving down or stagnating wages. The government decided to respond to its citizens concerns and its adjusting its immigration policy to favor natives in a measured and rational manner while preserving Singapore's reputation for openness to skilled, productive short-term and long-term immigrants who, unlike in America, contribute across the board to economic growth.
The Diplomat July 28, 2013 by Tom Bueno
At the end of 2012, Singapore could boast the world’s thirty-seventh economy, an almost negligible unemployment rate of 2%, and one of the highest incomes per capita among leading industrial economies. Yet any recent arrival to the Lion City quickly notes a seething undertone of resentment and dissatisfaction across significant segments of the population. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), which together with Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party is one of the two longest-serving ruling regimes in Asia, was returned to power in the last general election with its smallest share of the vote since independence.
Citizens had concerns, even unskilled laborers, such as taxi drivers:
“They (PAP) run Singapore like a company. They bring people from all over to come here and do our jobs,” said one of the many taxi drivers who act as a barometer of sorts, relaying to baffled foreigners the subterranean discontent of the local community in a country that has had its long traditions of political protest deadened by decades of PAP rule.
The driver’s disgruntled suspicion of foreign labor might seem misplaced in an economy with such low unemployment, but his misgivings are not entirely out of sync with recent developments. In 2011, of the 122,600 jobs created last year, more than two thirds, or 84,800 positions, were taken by foreign professionals, according to data from the government itself. Singapore already has a non-resident population of 1.46 million, and almost 40% of the island’s total population were born abroad. Although no serious analyst of Singapore’s political situation expects the ruling party to fall from power anytime soon, it is taken for granted among the general populace that its share of the vote will decline even further in the next general election.
Unlike the Republican or Democrat Parties, the PAP responded intelligently and rationally. Instead of insulting and attacking its citizens, it took action:
The Men in White – as PAP politicians are known, after the lily-white shade of the party's campaign uniforms – were quick to perceive the shift in public opinion and have acted accordingly, tightening the requirements for those wishing to employ foreign-born workers in Singapore. Until 2011, those hoping to apply for a Personalized Employment Pass (PEP), a special category of work visa that is not tied to a specific employer, could do so if they earned an annual salary of more than S$34,000. Now the minimum yearly income for PEP candidates has been raised to $144,000 – more than four times what was previously required. Foreign worker quotas for companies in all sectors of the economy have been cut. S-Passes, the employment passes issued for mid-level employees, are increasingly hard to come by, given that after the recent change in quotas, S-Pass holders can now only constitute up to 20% of a company’s workforce. One British human resources executive confessed: “I’ve had to let go of many promising candidates after our S-Pass requests were rejected by the Ministry of Manpower.”
Since the adoption of these new restrictions, frustration among high-level executives has been mounting. Their main gripe with the immigration issue is that, in spite of decades of impressive economic stewardship and massive investments in education on the part of the PAP government, multinationals still have a very hard time finding promising local candidates for some positions, especially those higher up the corporate ladder. Worse, Singapore’s compulsory social security schemes raise the cost of local workers considerably.
Singapore wisely sets its immigration policy based on the contribution of the individual seeking to enter the city-state. Other than the spouses and minor children of a Singaporean or of a Singaporean Permanent Resident, or the parents of a Singaporean, all immigrants, temporary or permanent, must meet strict employment, income, or investment based requirements before entering on either a temporary, limited, or permanent resident visa.
Unemployed or unemployable immigrants are unknown to Singapore, and there is no welfare class of immigrants. This is in remarkable contrast to the United States where immigration brings in large numbers of welfare recipients and criminals. The United States has its own native criminal classes, Congress and blacks. The Lion City has neither, and wisely chose not to import a criminal class. Well, it sort of does, Malays, but it keeps them and their Islamism under strict controls.
However, Singapore is quite distinct from the United States in that it has an immigration policy designed to benefit the nation and the nation's people, not loud segments of the population, such as the Slave Power or Cultural Marxists. Undoubtedly part of this is the benefit of living in a Confucian society— the PAP has the Mandate of Heaven, and is acting in a manner calculated to keep that mandate: Controlling a rapacious merchant class, maintaining respect for law and order, ensuring a happy and prosperous population, and preserving its cultural heritage all while responding to the concerns of the populous and its indigenous cultural concerns, a sort of Confucian Republic.
Not a democracy, not a monarchy, not an oligarchy, not an autocracy, but something different yet taking from all those forms of government and always acting in its national and citizen's interests. It is something that the United States should examine, especially while there is a demand for immigration reform. Our immigration certainly needs reform from one based on family relations to one based on employment and productivity that would support the nation, its people, and its culture.