Party team looks at problem of emigration

The Straits Times | Feb 27, 1990
By: Mardiana Abu Bakar

Reports from Sunday's PAP Convention

PRESSURE in two key areas of life in Singapore is driving some people to consider emigrating, a team of PAP activists who investigated the problem found.

Team leader Janet Chen reported that people were looking for less stressful lifestyles in Australia and Canada, for example, because:

THE pressure at work, in Singapore's constant striving to be Number One;
THE pressure to succeed in school made some parents say they had to leave "for the children's sake".

But Mrs Chen pointed out that Singaporeans could not afford to be complacent as they would become economically lethargic.

The solution, therefore, was to strike the right balance between hard work and relaxation. The group noted in its study that emigration was a serious problem as it meant a loss of talent.

The in-principal approval for 16,000 Hongkongers to migrate to Singapore was one way of alleviating the manpower shortage in Singapore, but the future would be bleak if Singaporeans did not reproduce themselves.

The group noted that in 1988, 4,707 families emigrated.

Singaporeans were emigrating to countries like Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand because of various "push and pull factors". Apart from pursuing less stressful lifestyles for themselves and their
children, some left because they felt that:

THEY were "over-governed" by numerous laws here. They also feared to speak their minds and criticise the government;
THERE was no guarantee that the present state of prosperity in Singapore and the region would continue;
AS MEMBERS of minority races, they had nothing to lose as they would have minority status wherever they went.

Commenting on the pressure on schoolchildren, Mrs Chen noted that some parents put a great deal of pressure on their children themselves. Their children were expected to excel not only in education but in sports and
music as well.

She questioned the notion of some parents that foreign schools were better than Singapore schools, saying that the quality of education could not be higher.

An overseas education was also more expensive, she said. To reduce the number who left, the team urged the Government to consider the following:

REVIEW the emphasis on second language, so that students who were good in all subjects but their second language would not be penalised;
RELAX controls over the lives of Singaporeans;
PROMOTE Singapore to overseas Singaporeans. The diplomatic missions abroad could form "Singapore Clubs" to discuss issues on Singapore and disseminate information such as job vacancies in Singapore.
LIBERALISE citizenship laws. Priority for permanent residence and citizenship could be given to ex-Singaporeans and foreign spouses of Singaporeans.

A speaker from the floor, a teacher who preferred to be identified only as Madam Quek, spoke against the suggestion of Mr Peh Chin Hua, an MP of Jalan Besar GRC, for Singaporeans to hold dual citizenship.

She said in Mandarin that she was against the idea as it would encourage, rather than reduce emigration.
Convention chairman Aline Wong allowed Mr Peh the right of reply, and he appealed to party members to consider the spirit in which he had made the suggestion recently.

He reiterated that he had proposed dual citizenship only for emigrants who met certain conditions. Among other things, the males ought to have done National Service, and the elderly should show that they could support themselves financially.