Easing overseas S’poreans back into home — Tan See Leng builds a global network for S’pore

04/10/2022

Calling all overseas Singaporeans — Singapore could use your talents here on this sunny island.

This is why there are programmes like the Singapore Financial Forum and the Returning Singaporean Scientists Scheme, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said during Parliament this Monday (Oct 3). 

“The Government actively engages overseas Singaporeans to keep them connected to home,” said the Minister. “So that they can make an informed decision about whether and when to return to Singapore.” 

Here, the Singapore Global Network (SGN) within the Economic Development Board (EDB) broadens and deepens the overseas Singaporean network.

The SGN has over 70,000 members across 130 countries and consists of Singaporean professionals, entrepreneurs and students.

It (and other agencies) offers comprehensive online resources towards smoothly relocating back home to Singapore. This includes information on education, working and getting around generally

“For example,” Minister Tan noted,  “The Ministry of Education’s website contains information about school admissions for returning Singaporean children.”

At the same time, the SGN engages overseas Singaporeans digitally. And it partners with private, public and community organizations for networking and community events.

Fireside chats and overseas connectors 

The Singapore Financial Forum (SFF) 2022, held this May, is one example. 

The SFF updated overseas Singaporeans about how Singapore remains on-track to support the Asian economic growth story as well as how Singapore needs a strong local talent pipeline to foster this growth.

“The people who attended felt that it was a very good forum for them to communicate, and also for them to consider relocating back home,” said Minister Tan.

“And it included fireside chats with industry leaders on their overseas experiences and relocation journeys as well.”

These leaders were pooled from the SFF’s government, academia and industry supporters, including the EDB, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Meta.

For top-level researchers, there is the Returning Singaporean Scientists Scheme (RSSS). 

“This seeks to attract outstanding overseas-based Singaporean research leaders back to Singapore to take up leadership positions in Singapore’s autonomous universities and publicly-funded research institutes,” explained Minister Tan.

Researchers who have returned under the RSSS so far have specalisations ranging from data analytics, microelectronics, smart cities and sustainability. 

The National Research Foundation, which is a department within the Prime Minister’s Office administers the RSSS. It currently works alongside Singapore’s institutes of higher learnings, as well as A*STAR, to identify suitable candidates for relocation. 

The Government, that said, does understand that people will choose to stay and build their lives wherever they’ve found themselves.

“In many of the Tier 1 cities all over the world, they can also serve as valuable connectors and advocates in many of these overseas markets, while they continue to gain the networks, the expertise and the industry-relevant experiences abroad,” said Minister Tan. 

“And many of them actually choose to carry on staying for longer periods because they’ve got other types, work commitments, maybe friends and school.”

Fair enough.   

This is where the SGN comes into play again. Its engagements and programs not only give overseas Singaporeans an edge as investors in foreign markets. They help to spread Singapore’s good reputation over there too.

Creating opportunities for everyone 

These good experiences with Singapore businesses and talent internationally help the Government’s overall manpower goal: creating opportunities for people at every level of the workforce.

Another current Government effort includes ensuring a complementary foreign workforce while retaining a strong Singaporean Core.

This is through ensuring a quality foreign labour force with Employment Pass qualifying salaries benchmarked against the top one-third of local PMETs, and through the points-based COMPASS assessment system.

A local talent pipeline is also being developed through Industry Transformation Maps. Spanning 23 sectors, the ITMs prepares Singapore’s workers for higher value-added jobs — here while the Government supports the NTUC’s $70 million Company Training Committee (CTC) grant for upskilling workers.

The Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) also requires that employers not not discriminate on characteristics that are not related to the job, such as age, gender, nationality or race.

“From 2017 to 2021, MOM (Ministry of Manpower) took enforcement actions against approximately 300 companies,” mentioned Minister Tan of the FCF’s impact. “The regulatory actions included issuance of warning and being barred from hiring or renewing foreign workers.” 

“Work is now underway to enshrine this in legislation,” added Minister Tan.

These actions locally and internationally, in sum, will together help Singaporeans thrive in a tight labour market.

And they’ll help make Singapore a better (and then even better) place to go back to. 

Why?

“Fundamentally,” Minister Tan explained, “strengthening Singapore’s position as a global hub for talent, which is brimming with exciting opportunities, is self-reinforcing.”

Time, then, to check in with the good people at the Singapore Global Network