Immigration, Population, and Foreign Workforce in Singapore: An Overview of Trends, Policies, and Issues, pp. 5 of 13

The “search for talent,” an endeavor that started in the early 1980s (Quah, 1984), was gradually ratcheted up in the subsequent decades as Singapore sought to transform into a knowledge-based economy (Wong, 2001; Coe & Kelly, 2000). The common measurements for “talents” are their monthly salaries, education qualifications, and work experiences. The minimum basic salary to qualify for the Employment Pass was S$1,500 per month in 1995 (Hui, 1997), S$2,500 in 2010 and S$3,300 in 2015. Starting from January 2017, the newly set bar is S$3,600 (The Straits Times, 2016). 

To attract “foreign talents,” the Singapore government has taken on a series of initiatives. For example, the Singapore Talent Recruitment (STAR) Committee was formed in 1998 to develop and implement the strategies of attracting and retaining foreign talents (Yeo, 1998). Contact Singapore, an agency that aims to promote Singapore overseas (Nathan, 1997), was set up in 1997, with offices in Sydney, Perth, Boston, London, Los Angeles and Vancouver. It provides information on working, studying, and living in Singapore for foreigners who are interested in moving to the Asian city-state. Besides, a Scheme for Housing Foreign Talents (SHiFT) has also been in operation since 1997, before it was phased out in 2013.[iv]

Apart from targeting professionals, specific programmes were also set up to attract specialists and students. For example, the Foreign Sports Talent (FTS) Scheme was introduced in 1993 to bring in exceptional foreign athletes to boost Singapore’s national teams (Yang, 2014). Many scholarships have also been offered to ASEAN and Non-ASEAN (primarily China and India) students to study in Singapore in order to groom them as Singapore’s future human capital (Yang, 2016).

Demographic Change

The concern with population is the other critical dimension underpinning Singapore’s immigration policy.

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~ John Dewey, How We Think

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