Can you blame them for leaving?The last paragraph of the letter reminds me of what Catherine Lim termed, sometime around 1995, the Great Affective Divide, an emotional estrangement between the people & the government. In more recent times, Catherine Lim said this:
From young to old, life here doesn't get easier
Give locals priority over foreigners
Monday • February 6, 2006
Letter from Jimmy Ho Kwok Hoong
I REFER to the letter, "Puzzle of migrating Singaporeans" by Lim Boon Hee (Feb 2). Let us rationally analyse the "quitter" problem from the perspectives of different age groups.
Our educational curriculum deprives us of a proper childhood from a tender age. Judging from the proportion of students wearing spectacles here, it is not difficult to tell they have been overexposed to textbooks. Parents who cannot bear to see their kids live with the need for regimental "mugging" may consider migration.
On the next level, a hopeful graduate, fresh from his victory in the educational system, may be in for a rude shock when he discovers that the job market — with its plentiful supply of foreign talent — is not prepared to pay him enough for a decent lifestyle.
It may be worth mentioning that our definition of the words "foreign talent" has changed from its initial meaning of highly-paid expatriates and cheaper IT staff to include the foreign worker who clears the dustbin. Although these foreigners may be needed to reduce the overall costs of operations in Singapore, have we gone too far in welcoming them by being reluctant to control their impact on local rice bowls?
When setting up a family, most couples will learn that the house they buy will probably cost them a lifelong mortgage.
When a Singaporean reaches 40 years old, he should realise that his shelf life in the workforce is only about 10 years, upon discovering that he is considered "obsolete" at that age — even after having acquired a Masters' degree at 30.
The middle-aged professionals, when they are retrenched, will have to decide whether to "upgrade" themselves — taking up menial jobs despite their immense experience in white-collared posts — or to throw their savings into entrepreneurship, for which the chances of success are slim.
Unemployment fell to a low of 2.5 per cent last quarter. However, wages have yet to recover to the level they were at in the previous cycle. In other words, jobs were created but at lower value added as a whole.
The private sector has been asked not to discriminate based on age when hiring, yet public organisations continue to recruit based on age limits.
Older folks in their "golden years" are also not spared. They are expected to slog for their livelihoods to a ripe old age, while their peers elsewhere happily rely on welfare and healthcare provided free of charge by their governments.
The biggest issue may be the refusal to acknowledge that the problems exist — let alone working on solving them. Given such an environment, is it any wonder that some Singaporeans choose to migrate? As I hear someone saying in a coffeeshop say: "Stayers are people who do not have the means to quit!"
"Perhaps the most disturbing thing .... is that while both sides are having their due say, neither appears to believe it will make the least difference. A kind of fatigue has set in.
The Government and the people seem no longer to be in dialogue; they appear to be talking at rather than to each other.
Indeed, there is the eerie sensation of the observer that both sides are merely going through the motions and paces of a practised stance, doing an accustomed, tedious but necessary dance with each other.
The Government seems to be saying, a little wearily: "We will keep explaining our decision, as meticulously and as patiently as we can, for as long as you like, but don't expect us to change it in any way."
And the people seem to be saying with equal weariness: "We know. But since there is this new climate that allows for freer expression than we have been used to, we might as well make use of it, and have our say, for all it's worth."
In the end, the situation remains the same, caught in a time warp where everything else around is moving on.