SINGAPORE’S Merlion represents the dual character of how Filipinos see the City State.
To the 10 percent richest Filipinos owning over 70 percent of the country’s wealth, Singapore is the nearest Rodeo Drive-like shopping district.
To the 10 million plus Overseas Filipinos and at least 30 million more (since one OFW would have at least 3 family members) Singapore is the closest source of potential overseas employment: closer to home and safer than the Middle East.
Credit Suisse data in October 2014 show the high inequality in the Philippines. In the year 2000, the top 10-percent of rich Filipinos held 9 percent of the country’s wealth. Their share fell to 69.2 percent in 2007, but again climbed to 76 percent last year, Credit Suisse data showed.
Rich Filipinos visit and shop at Singapore. The others look for work or career advancement.
In 2004 most Filipinos in Singapore were domestic workers. By 2009, there were 163,090 citizens of the Philippines living in Singapore. Between 2010 and 2012, about 45,450 Filipinos were newly hired into Singapore.
POEA records show that as of 2007 an estimated 80,000 work as domestic helpers, with another 12,000 in the information technology industry. The change in employment opportunity make-up came with the rise in global trade, especially re-exports which account for 43% of Singapore’s total sales to other countries in 2000.
Singapore’s principal exports are petroleum products, food/beverages, chemicals, textile/garments, electronic components, telecommunication apparatus, and transport equipment. Singapore’s main imports are aircraft, crude oil and petroleum products, electronic components, radio and television receivers/parts, motor vehicles, chemicals, food/beverages, iron/steel, and textile yarns/fabrics.
The world’s trust in Singapore is reflected in the extensive network of trade agreements that Singapore has. According to Healy Consultants, Singapore has free trade access to the entirety of the ASEAN network, with import duty reduced when dealing with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Singapore’s largely corruption-free government, skilled workforce, and advanced and efficient infrastructure have attracted investments from more than 3,000 multinational corporations (MNCs) from the United States, Japan, and Europe.
Skilled workforce is perhaps one of the few things that Singapore and the Philippine s share. The difference is that the Philippines has the skilled workforce but no jobs while Singapore has work available for the skilled but no workforce.
In 2009, POEA records show 50,504 Filipinos deployed to Singapore. The number increased yearly: 63,707 in 2010 increasing to 156,879 in 2013. While domestic helpers continue to be the bulk of Filipinos deployed to the City State, the number of professionals and other skilled workers has emerged as the 2013 deployment table shows.
Roda B. came to Singapore as a marketing professional 10 years ago. After a few months, her co-workers and friends followed: accountants, IT programmers and others in sales. In the corporate world of Singapore, Roda realized how companies need and select staff. Yet, there are not enough skilled workers in Singapore to fill the need.
Roda found a niche.
She resigned from her job and set up an employment agency in Chinatown and named it 1Serve initially serving the household needs of Singaporean families and those of the expatriate community.
Constantly traveling to expand her network of employers, Roda soon found partners and clients in the Middle East. 1Serve upgraded its roster of applicants from household help to skilled workers and professionals in the field of Food and Beverage, Hotel and Restaurant Management, IT, and engineering occupations in the oil and gas industry.
1Serve Clients gained experience in the global marketplace through the Singapore portal. Quite a number became permanent residents and Singaporeans as Roda and her family did. Others remain pass and work permit holders waiting for their permanent resident applications to be approved.
Rich as the City State is, Singapore could only hold a finite number of people.
Currently, Singapore total population stands at 5.47 million, up 1.3 per cent from the year before but the growth has slowed – only above 1.6 per cent growth recorded in 2014, according to a Singapore Straits Times report from latest government figures on September 24, 2014.
The slow-down was mainly due to the decrease in hiring of foreign workers. It has fallen to 2.9 per cent this year, compared to 4 per cent last year. The government has established a program, SkillsFuture – designed to lessen Singapore’s reliance on foreign workers and development of local workforce.
Filipino skilled workers and professionals – especially those whose permanent resident applications remain pending , as well as others whose career are currently stuck in corporate ceiling limbo feel they need a bigger, breathing space.
After all, you can only visit Sentosa Island and Universal Studios so many times before you look towards the natural wide open spaces of British Columbia, Canada (where you can snow ski and surf at the same time, the allure of Middle Earth in Hobbiton of New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
Then there is the shortage of occupations in these three countries. New Zealand has its Immediate as well as Long Term Skills Shortage List, Australia has its Skilled Occupations List and Canada has set a target to admit somewhere between 260,000 to 285,000 permanent residents in 2015. Most of them (63 percent) will be economic immigrants – professionals and skilled workers; 26 percent under the family class and about 11percent under humanitarian immigration programs.
Having a pulse of the Singapore professional and skilled worker market, Roda set up 1Migrate Immigration Consulting to serve the needs of Filipinos, Singaporeans and other nationalities that would want to explore their migration options.
The Merlion is no longer an enigma but an icon of opportunity for Roda and millions more.