According to a new article by Bloomberg, the coronavirus pandemic had affected Singapore, including maybe altering the expat situation permanently, saying that “the charm of expat life in Singapore has lost much of its shine.”
There are definitely many expatriates who have appreciated the advantages of living in Singapore, including the ease of flying to other sections of Asia and the globe, high incomes, protection, and other benefits and incentives. Indeed, as Bloomberg points out, more than 50% of senior financial sector leadership positions are filled by non-Singaporeans.
The cushy life of a ‘expat’ is, to be sure, a long cry from the ordinary reality of undocumented employees, who endure lives of far less luxury.
And the expertise of expats has also helped Singapore. The article says that “the modus operandi of Singapore was to make itself a base camp for multinational capitalism and the individuals who make it tick.” The country’s first king, Lee Kuan Yew, set out a welcoming mat for multinationals: first for textiles, ship repair and petrochemicals, then for electronics, tourism and finance.
However, in Singapore, Covid-19 could have just marked the end of the sweet life for expats. The country’s job rates have been hit by the ongoing crisis and the worst economic downturn in decades, and, understandably, local residents are given preference, with companies urged to recruit and attract them.
In order to maintain consistency with their recruiting policies, the finance market is also being tightly supervised. And recently, the regulations on work permits for immigrants have been tighter, with minimum wages increasing not only once but twice in 2020 for them.
And expats themselves have spoken about the country’s heightened sense of difficulty and unease. Last week, Rice Media’s news and media platform published an article by Edoardo Liotta staff writer, which has increased attention online, with many Singaporeans giving feedback on it, titled “Why It Sucks to Be An Expat In Singapore Right Now.” Netizens also found out that “it hurts to be an expat somewhere in the world” given the unparalleled economic instability of the pandemic.
Bloomberg echoes Australian Kym Grieve ‘s point, cited in the Rice Media post, that, contrary to the thinking of many citizens, expat packages do not come with the rights and advantages they did a few decades ago.
“Woefully out of fashion is the European caricature enjoying a gin tonic under a greenery tree with rent and school payments taken care of, pampered by maids.”
Bloomberg goes on to say that there are no firms that compensate for expat workers’ education and accommodation, and that the global financial crash over a decade ago ended the “glory days of expat bundles.”