Life after Singapore

Ms Nova Erni Esiana Bones, 26, who had worked here for four years, is now a nanny and housekeeper for an Aussie family in Bali. She lives with her husband, Mr Dafy Lifu, 28, and daughter Acha, 18 months. Mr Shahabuddin 45, who had worked here for fou
Ms Nova Erni Esiana Bones, 26, who had worked here for four years, is now a nanny and housekeeper for an Aussie family in Bali. She lives with her husband, Mr Dafy Lifu, 28, and daughter Acha, 18 months.ST PHOTO: JOANNA SEOW
Ms Nova Erni Esiana Bones, 26, who had worked here for four years, is now a nanny and housekeeper for an Aussie family in Bali. She lives with her husband, Mr Dafy Lifu, 28, and daughter Acha, 18 months. Mr Shahabuddin 45, who had worked here for fou
Mr Shahabuddin 45, who had worked here for four years, is now a welder at a garment factory in Bangladesh. He takes his disabled second son, Raihat, 18, out in a rented car whenever he can. ST PHOTO: AW CHENG WEI
Ms Nova Erni Esiana Bones, 26, who had worked here for four years, is now a nanny and housekeeper for an Aussie family in Bali. She lives with her husband, Mr Dafy Lifu, 28, and daughter Acha, 18 months. Mr Shahabuddin 45, who had worked here for fou
Mr Wang Cheng Jun, 33, vice-GM of recruiting agency Luoyang New-Link, and his son Zi Hang, two, in their three-room flat in Longmen Avenue in Luoyang. Mr Wang had worked here for over three years. ST PHOTO: OLIVIA HO
Ms Nova Erni Esiana Bones, 26, who had worked here for four years, is now a nanny and housekeeper for an Aussie family in Bali. She lives with her husband, Mr Dafy Lifu, 28, and daughter Acha, 18 months. Mr Shahabuddin 45, who had worked here for fou
Mr Dan Balmer, 39, with wife Michelle, 35, and daughters Ella, 10, and Eva, five, had worked here for six years. He is now general manager of global marketing at carmaker Aston Martin in Britain.PHOTO: COURTESY OF DAN BALMER

Ahead of International Migrants Day on Friday, Insight looks at the stories of four migrants who passed through Singapore.

If the labour force is one of the engines that power the economy, foreigners are a key ingredient of the fuel that drives the engine.

The numbers tell the story.

There are 1,368,200 foreigners working in Singapore, out of the 5.535 million population and 3.531 million workers in the labour force.

This means that about one in four people here is a foreign worker. And about two in five workers here are foreigners.

The numbers will be even higher if permanent residents are counted as foreigners. Statistically, they are considered part of the resident population and workforce. Foreigners do anything from manual tasks such as clearing the rubbish chutes to top-rung work like running the Asian operations of multinational companies based here.

The inflow of foreign workers has been tightened in recent years, but their numbers are still inching up.

The Ministry of Manpower does not publish a breakdown of the nationalities of foreign workers here or statistics on the number of foreign workers who leave Singapore each year.

But since foreigners work here on renewable work passes that are typically of between one and three years, and assuming that 20 per cent of them - or 274,000 - leave each year, some 2.7 million of them would have worked in Singapore in the past decade.

How has working in Singapore made a mark on their lives? To mark International Migrants Day on Friday, our reporters met four foreigners who have worked here.

They are a maid from Indonesia, a former welder from Bangladesh, a recruiter from China and a car-company executive from Britain.

They talked to Insight about their experiences of working and living in Singapore and how the stint changed them.


The maid from Indonesia


Ms Nova Erni Esiana Bones was just 18 years old when she left her village of Oben, in eastern Indonesia, to work as a maid in Singapore. Now working in Bali, she hopes to return to work in Singapore to earn more money for her daughter's education. ST PHOTO: JOANNA SEOW

As a teenager alone in a foreign country, Indonesian maid Nova Erni Esiana Bones cried almost every day for the first month after arriving in Singapore.

With no mobile phone and no friends, all she could do was to think of home and her parents - the left-behind drivers of a dream.

Seven years later, she is still working as a maid, but in Bali, Indonesia - and she now soothes the cries of her baby girl who cannot bear to lose sight of her.

READ MORE HERE


The ship welder from Bangladesh


Since his return to Bangladesh in early 2010, Mr Shahabuddin (above, left) has spent half his insurance money fixing up his house in Dhaka and the rest on buying a provision shop, a 10-minute walk from his house. His older son tends the shop while he works as a welder at a garment factory. ST PHOTO: AW CHENG WEI

At his welding job in a garment factory in Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka, Md Shahabuddin fuses together steel sheets, repairs iron pipes and works in searing heat - with his bare hands.

For nine hours a day, six days a week, earning the equivalent of $280 a month, the 45-year-old father of three goes about his dangerous duties, his mind on Singapore.

"I think about going back (to Singapore) all the time," said Mr Shahabuddin, who worked as a welder for an engineering firm in the Republic between 2006 and 2008 for $600 a month. "The money was good, hours were good."

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The recruiter from China


Mr Wang at Luoyang New- Link's branch in rural Songxian. As the firm's vice-general manager, he makes two to three times as much as he did in Singapore. PHOTO: OLIVIA HO

The most difficult choice that Chinese national Wang Cheng Jun ever had to make was leaving Singapore.

Mr Wang and his wife Zhang Li- min, also from China, had spent three happy years working and living together in Singapore. He was a recruitment agent, initially as an S Pass holder before gaining an Employment Pass, and she was on an S Pass as a nurse.

But the birth of their first son in 2013 turned this life upside down.

READ MORE HERE


The car company exec from Britain


Mr Dan Balmer at a showroom for his current employer, Aston Martin, in Britain. His family lived in Singapore from 2009 to 2014 when he was the Asia-Pacific general manager of luxury carmaker Rolls-Royce. ST PHOTO: TOH YONG CHUAN

When Singapore celebrated SG50 in August, a family living in the village of Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, about a two-hour drive north-west of London, also celebrated the Republic's National Day.

The family wore clothes in Singapore's national colours of red and white the whole day, and had kaya toast for breakfast, noodles for lunch and fried rice for dinner.

They are not Singaporeans, but British nationals Dan Balmer, 39, his wife Michelle, 35, and their daughters Ella, 10, and Eva, five.

READ MORE HERE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on , with the headline 'LIFE AFTER SINGAPORE'. Print Edition | Subscribe