Fed up expats start to stay away from Singapore


Tom Meredith arrived in London more than a year after leaving, when Singapore revoked his re-entry permit to fly back to his wife and 6-year-old twin daughters.

The short business trip that was supposed to take place in May suddenly had no return date, which forced Meredith to shuttle back and forth between family and friends’ homes in the UK for several weeks.

“I’m very sad,” the tax consultant said. “The kind of shock you enter away from your family… This may be an extra two weeks, two months, four months. You feel completely helpless.”

With the emergence of new clusters involving aggressive variants of Covid-19, Singapore has imposed strict travel restrictions, and Meredith is just one of many foreigners who have been turned away.

For some foreign professionals, this restriction has proved to be a breakthrough point. Frustration with travel restrictions and vaccines, perhaps the most telling of the problem is the worry about work, prompting expats to abandon the island and go to their home country or other financial centers such as Dubai.

Uncertainty about when to “come and go, don’t know what your life will look like in the next few months” prompted a 31-year-old management consultant to decide to move back to Portugal.

Singapore Changi International Airport: Expats who have lost their jobs are struggling to find another job in this city-state © Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images

Foreigners under the age of 40 are at the bottom of the vaccination queue, and Singaporeans between the ages of 12 and 39 can be given priority for nearly three weeks of vaccination. Reservations have been opened to non-Singaporeans last week.

The consultant, who asked not to be named, said: “This is just one of many ways Singapore shows that it is not super friendly to foreigners, and that they always put their citizens before foreigners.”

Efforts to find a job have also aroused anxiety among foreigners. “If you are laid off and you are a senior director, it is difficult to find something suitable for EP [employment pass holder, who earns at least S$4,500 ($3,340) per month],” said Richard Aldridge of the Black Swan Group, a financial services recruitment company.

“You have to decide very flexibly that you want to stay here.”

The employment difficulties of foreign professionals coincide with Singapore’s efforts to reduce its dependence on foreign labor after the Covid-19 outbreak swept over crowded dormitories last year. Migrant WorkersThe labor force vital to construction and other industries accounts for nearly 90% of the city-state’s caseload.

The then Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo (Josephine Teo), March Call on the company to “strengthen its Singapore core”. Last year, Singapore raised the eligible wages for Employment Pass twice.

Although EP holders accounted for a quarter of Black Swan’s placement in Singapore in 2019, the number in 2021 has dropped to zero. “EP is almost toxic. Initially, no attention was paid to people with EP… They were put on hold for two to three months,” Aldridge said.

The number of foreign workers (m) histogram shows that Singapore’s foreign labor force has dropped significantly during Covid-19

The authorities said they re-implemented restrictions in May to avoid a large-scale outbreak. The Ministry of Trade and Industry stated that it acknowledged the “border measures affecting everyone, especially those who need to travel or reunite with their families”, adding that it will cooperate with those affected.

After the number of infections has dropped, restrictions are being relaxed. But until next week, social gatherings will still be limited to five people, and only two customers are allowed to dine together. Restaurants are not allowed to play music to avoid people talking loudly, which the authorities say may help spread Covid.

It is difficult to obtain official statistics on foreigners not renewing their visas, but Adam Sloan, managing director of the moving company Santa Fe Relocation, said that the number of people leaving Singapore exceeds the number of people arriving.

“We are fully operational. We are doing our best to find more slots and space to pack,” Sloan said. He said that the number of families moving out every day in Santa Fe has jumped from 20 last year to 30 to 35 in June.

However, some foreigners, including Hong Kong, are still relocating to this city-state, and Hong Kong is disturbed by protests, school closures and China’s strict national security laws.

Tom Meredith admitted that he was
Tom Meredith admitted that he was “heartbroken” when he could not return to his family © Tom Meredith

A Hong Kong executive who made this move said, “From a professional perspective, Singapore is far more attractive than Hong Kong. Obviously, it is safe, convenient, and more affordable, and it is a more international city.”

Another attraction is Singapore’s efforts to formulate a coronavirus exit strategy.

Once it fully vaccinates at least half of its 5.7 million population-this goal will be achieved by the end of this month-Singapore may allow social gatherings to expand to 8 people and vaccinate residents to participate in live performances with more audiences And sports games. More than 3.7 million people received the first dose and the second injection of 2.2 horses. It also plans to take “gradual steps” to relax travel restrictions.

Meredith finally returned to Singapore last week. But his family has considered whether they should “keep living” in this city-state. In the past few months, five friends and their families have left. However, for now, he is just “very very happy to go home.”



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