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Monday, May 21, 2012

What does 'being one of us' truly mean to Singaporeans?

What does “being one of us” truly mean to Singaporeans? Researchers at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) asked that question in a study involving 1,001 Singapore-born citizens and a further 1,000 foreign-born naturalised citizens. In the course of their survey, each respondent was read a list of 30 “Singaporean” values, characteristics and attitudes, and asked to decide whether or not each factor was important to them in defining a Singaporean. Views of the two groups diverged the widest when it came to whether or not the sons of new citizens have gone through National Service. The study showed that 69 per cent of local-born citizens interviewed said it was a key factor that determines “Singaporean-ness”, while only 43 per cent of foreign-born citizens surveyed agreed. Looking at naturalised citizens who have held pink identity cards for less than 10 years, the percentage drops further to 41 per cent, the largest diversion in agreement between local and foreign-born citizens. Other factors where local and foreign-born citizens disagreed include getting on well with one’s colleagues, being gainfully employed and being able to speak conversational English.
Both local and foreign-born citizens agreed on factors such as racial and religious harmony, as well as maintaining good relationships with one’s neighbours. Who are less receptive? The study, led by immigration research fellow Leong Chan-Hoong, also found that citizens in his study who were less receptive and inclusive are better-educated, and live in bigger and more expensive housing. Further analysis also revealed that citizen participants from lower-income households tended to “expect more commitment” from immigrants. Those who also required more “Singaporean” factors on new citizens also showed stronger family ties, the study showed. In a paper compiling his findings, Leong said the current Singapore integration programme for all new citizens (called the “Citizenship Journey”) can be refined by incorporating field trips to military bases, where participants could observe regimental training exercises, so that new citizens can better understand the value of National Service to Singaporeans. Leong’s team of researchers also called for more transparent data on immigration, so that Singaporeans can come to greater understanding and appreciation of their presence. More details on the number of foreigners in various industries, more specific information on the types of jobs they do, as well as the exact criteria for obtaining PR status, will facilitate a better social climate, the researchers argued. They also said that more can be done to facilitate the learning of English among foreigners who are here to stay, and that businesses could consider ways to improve relations between their local and foreign employees.

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