Best for expats but why how many S'poreans are leaving? By Leong Sze Hian.

Best place to live in but how many are leaving?

Leong Sze Hian / Columnist

I refer to the report “About 1,000 give up citizenship annually” (My Paper, Jul 22).

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, emigrate means “to leave one’s place of residence or country to live elsewhere”. So, I think Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Sylvia Lim’s question may not have been answered adequately.

The foreign missions in Singapore have statistics on the number of Singaporeans who emigrate. For example, I understand that about 4,000 Singaporeans migrate to Australia in a year. The majority of emigrants may not show up in the “surrender citizenship” statistics, because the CPF board will only allow emigrants to withdraw their CPF, when they have obtained citizenship from another country. I have friends who have emigrated to Canada and Australia, and are still waiting to be granted citizenship after many years.

I believe in countries like Thailand and Malaysia, Singaporean emigrants generally are never given citizenship. As many countries allow dual citizenship, unlike Singapore, some emigrants may never surrender their Singapore citizenship.

Does the CPF board have statistics of enquiries that it receives from Singaporeans abroad regarding their CPF withdrawal ?

I would like to suggest that we compile the emigration statistics from the foreign missions, as well as the CPF statistics, so that we have a more realistic estimate of emigration. I feel that we should not in a sense, be complacent, by assuming that only those who give up their citizenship have emigrated. From my experience as the Honorary Consul of a foreign country in Singapore, I believe a simple diplomatic note to the foreign missions requesting for this statistic may suffice.

According to the Overseas Singaporean Unit (OSU), there are 150,000 Singaporeans residing overseas.

How many of these are emigrants ?

According to a Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) survey in 2006, 53 per cent of Singaporean teens want to leave Singapore permanently. The Prime Minister also said in April 2008, that 1 in 4 top A-level students settles abroad every year. Our former PM also said in October 1999 that 2,000 emigrate each year.

In the 1990 population census, the Singapore diaspora was 36,000. What is this statistic in the most recent population census?

More accurate and comprehensive data may also be helpful to the OSU in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) set up in August last year, to do analysis and planning to woo and help Singaporeans return to reside in Singapore.

Since Singapore has been ranked as the best place in the world to live in by expatriates, does it not beg the question as to why so many Singaporeans are emigrating, and more than half our teens want to leave too – if they could?

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