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Is the expat experience in Singapore forever changed by Covid-19?

The current recession and the biggest contraction of the economy in decades has effected the country’s employment rates, resulting in locals being given priority

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Singapore—The coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching effects in Singapore, including perhaps changing the expat situation forever, according to a recent report from Bloomberg, which says that “the appeal of expat life in Singapore has lost much of its shine.”

There certainly are many expatriates who have enjoyed the perks of living in Singapore, which includes the convenience of travel to other parts of Asia and the world, high salaries, safety and other perks and bonuses. Indeed, as Bloomberg points out, over 50 per cent of senior management roles in financial service are occupied by non-Singaporeans.

To be clear, the cushy life of an ‘expat’ is a far cry than the daily experience of immigrant workers, who live lives of far less privilege.

And Singapore has benefited from the expertise of expats as well. The article states that “Singapore’s modus operandi has been to make itself a base camp for global capitalism and the people who make it tick. Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s first leader, laid out the welcome mat for multinational corporations: first for textiles, ship maintenance and petrochemicals, then for electronics, tourism and finance.”

However, Covid-19 may have just signaled the end of the sweet life for expats in Singapore. The current recession and the biggest contraction of the economy in decades has effected the country’s employment rates, and naturally, locals are being given priority, with businesses incentivized to hire and keep them.

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The finance industry is now being closely watched to ensure compliance in their hiring practices. And lately, the rules concerning foreigners’ employment visas have gotten stricter, with minimum salaries going up for them not just once but twice in 2020.

And expats themselves have been talking about an increased sense of difficulty and unease in the country. Last week, news and media website Rice Media published an article entitled “Why It Sucks to Be An Expat In Singapore Right Now” by staff writer Edoardo Liotta, which has gained traction online, with many Singaporeans sharing and commenting on it. Netizens have pointed out that amid the unprecedented economic uncertainty of the pandemic, “It sucks to be an expat anywhere in the world.”

Australian Kym Grieve’s observation, quoted in the Rice Media article, that contrary to many people’s thinking, expat packages do not come with the privileges and benefits they did a few decades ago, is echoed by Bloomberg.

“The caricature of the European sipping a gin and tonic under a shady tree with rent and school fees taken care of, pampered by maids, is woefully out of date.”

Bloomberg goes on to say that there are not may companies that pay for tuition and housing of expat employees, and that the global financial crisis over a decade ago did away with “the glory days of the expat packages.” —/TISG

Read also: Netizens unhappy about Rice Media’s article on expats in Singapore

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