Nurse measuring BP of a patient in a hospital.

SINGAPORE: Many Indian nurses see Singapore as a stepping stone to opportunities in Europe and other Western countries, according to recruitment director Arun Kumar Ojha of Dynamic Health Staff, an agency that specialises in global recruitment of nurses from India.

The country’s advanced healthcare system and English-speaking environment make it an attractive “transit destination,” allowing nurses to gain valuable experience before moving on to more lucrative positions abroad.

According to The Straits Times, Mr Ramkumar S, executive director of the Meghalaya State Skill Development Society, noted that Singapore was a top destination for those seeking work abroad.

He mentioned this while discussing the Meghalaya state government job fair for nurses in 2023, attracting international recruiters from countries such as Japan and Britain.

He said, “The response was overwhelming. We had about 1,500 nurses who turned up, and many of them actually came with very little prior information. But they wanted to go to Australia and Singapore because they speak English there.

Twenty-seven nurses also got job offers from Japan, which has been actively recruiting Indian nurses.

Candidates from Meghalaya and other north-eastern Indian states have strong English-language skills, which is a big plus for recruiters.

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In Assam, 53 nurses have verified their professional records for the Singapore Nursing Board by the Assam Nurses’ Midwives’ & Health Visitors’ Council since July 2021, making them eligible for recruitment in Singapore.

The high demand for nurses in Singapore is due to high attrition rates and a growing global need for healthcare professionals. Many foreign nurses returned home after the borders reopened after the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to SNB figures, Singapore had 43,772 nurses and registered midwives in 2022, with about 75% of the 36,995 registered nurses being Singaporeans or permanent residents.

Most foreign nurses in Singapore were from the Philippines (13%), followed by Malaysia (5.7%), Myanmar (2.4%), India (1.3%), and China (1.27%).

To make up for the shortfall following the pandemic, 5,600 nurses were hired in the public healthcare system in 2023, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Health.

In 2023, Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung stated that the ratio of local nurses to foreign nurses would be about 60 to 40 and that most of the nursing workforce would continue to be locals from nursing schools and mid-career training programmes.

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Indian nurses are drawn to Singapore because of better salaries, the English-speaking environment, and the advanced healthcare system.

Mr Ojha explained that many Indian nurses see Singapore as a stepping stone to opportunities in Europe and elsewhere. This appeals to those in smaller towns and rural areas in India, where access to modern healthcare technologies is limited.

He noted that Singapore hospitals use advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, attracting Indian nurses seeking to gain experience over four to five years before potentially moving to Europe.

In the past three years, the firm has recruited about 300 nurses from India for placements in both public and private hospitals across Singapore.

Indian nurses working in Singapore typically earn between S$1,800 to S$2,500 per month, significantly more than their earnings back home, and receive additional benefits such as housing allowances and relocation support.

Statistics from The Hindu newspaper indicate that one in eight Indian nurses works overseas, with an estimated 640,000 Indian nurses employed abroad as of 2013.

In 2023, Kerala saw 27,000 nurses leaving for overseas positions, the southern state of India with the most global source of nursing professionals.

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In recent years, nurses from states like Meghalaya have also increasingly sought opportunities abroad, with the state government facilitating overseas placements for nurses for the first time.

NLB Services’ 2024 report notes a steady growth in demand for Indian nurses abroad, projected to nearly double in six to seven years.

Initiatives in countries such as the United States, Britain, Canada, and Japan have streamlined entry processes for Indian nurses.

For example, Japan offers extendable three-year visas with salaries starting from S$1,700 per month, while nurses in the United Arab Emirates can earn upwards of S$3,000 monthly, often including perks like free accommodation and meals, similar to opportunities in Britain.

Professor Roy K. George from the Trained Nurses’ Association of India highlighted that “Singapore is just a transit destination” for Indian nurses who may either return to India or move on to Western countries.

He noted that Singapore’s high cost of living prompts them to carefully consider their financial prospects as “saving is less” in an expensive city like Singapore, despite the professional advantages it offers. /TISG

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