The Straits Times
Published on Feb 08, 2013

The four groups of foreigners


THE issue of foreigners in Singapore has been debated many times, and especially so in recent years.

We will have to continue bringing in foreigners in order to achieve our economic goals and ensure a sustainable population in future.

Our policies should be calibrated to ensure that we bring in the right kind of foreigners.

There are four categories of foreigners.

First, there are the investors and job creators. These are the high-fliers whom we should target and ensure they take up citizenship.

They bring in investments and help to create jobs for Singaporeans.

Usually, they will take up permanent residency and it is not easy to entice them to take up citizenship as they are highly mobile.

Second, there are the professionals, managers, executives and technicians. They can be found in almost every sector, working in factories, offices, restaurants and so on. They are mainly at the middle management level and hold employment passes or S-passes.

There is also a tendency for them to recruit their own countrymen when they are in a position to hire workers.

They come here mainly to make money and will return to their countries once they have earned enough.

Most grouses are directed at this group because they are taking up jobs that Singaporeans can do. They have also been blamed for the tight squeeze on public transport and the high prices of houses.

We should slow down the intake of this group.

Third, there are the low-end foreign workers. This group can be found mainly in the construction, shipyard, cleaning and hotel industries, in jobs that many Singaporeans shun.

We do not see them very much in our day-to-day commute because they are usually ferried by lorries between their dormitories and workplaces.

Once their contracts end, they will return to their countries.

Singaporeans do not see much problem with this group as they are needed to build our infrastructure.

Lastly, there are the foreign spouses of Singaporeans.

Some lower-income male Singaporeans marry women from the neighbouring countries. Despite settling down and having children here, these foreign wives do not qualify for citizenship because of their lack of qualifications.

They are given long-term visit passes that have to be renewed. This can potentially break up the family.

These foreign wives should be granted citizenship as their husbands and children are Singaporeans. They have also contributed by giving Singapore the babies it needs.

Goh Geok Teck