Increasingly so, social integration in Singapore is seen as an important factor when it comes to qualifying Singapore PR applicants for their eligibility to become a permanent resident and perhaps even eventual Singapore citizenship.
So what exactly is social integration in Singapore? It is basically the assimilation of the culture community and style of living in Singapore by the immigrant. The most extreme version is for instance via marriage, for example if you are a foreign man and marry Singaporean women, as that is pretty much ultimate social integration!
So why exactly is this seem as increasingly more important as a factor when it comes to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority ICA of Singapore government then when it comes to approval for Singapore PR applications and even Singapore citizenship applications? This is actually because of on the ground sentiment by Singaporeans.
With a large influx of immigrants into Singapore especially between the year 2000 to 2010, that drove up the prices of local properties to clearly unsustainable levels, and also, many Singaporeans feel that when walking around the island, many new people are acting very differently from the way they are used to. This is because of a largely open-door policy by the government back then. Due to backlash, but still with the need for immigrants, be it new permanent residents or citizens to sustain the economy and growth, ICA cut back on the number of permanent residencies given out on a yearly basis, and gave heavy priority not just for financially and academically capable people, but those who are able to integrate well into Singapore’s society among them. This is to ensure success both in maintaining the local culture and keeping existing citizens happy, while also not sacrificing any kind of financial growth that many are also looking for.
The following is an interesting video by The Straits Times on new immigrants becoming Singaporean.
However, there are also a myriad of factors which may be adding to the difficulty of achieving this successfully.
First of all, majority of Singaporeans are generally speaking relatively reserved. This means that even if a foreigner is open to connect with the locals, the locals are not comfortable opening their minds to them. One simple example would be that even on the public streets, the locals are usually seen as relatively aloof or much more reserved when it comes to interactions with strangers.
Second of all, new immigrants, whether or not they are already permanent residents, tend to socialize within fellow expatriate groups as well. This is generally the case even for those who have lived in Singapore for over 5 years.
Third of all, popular places for majority of the local citizens and new immigrants to live in and shop around are also largely different. This can make it harder for both groups to mix around with effectively. For instance, most locals live and shop in heartland areas while new immigrants may prefer staying in city condominiums like the Sculptura Ardmore and shop along Orchard Road instead.
There are however good efforts towards social and racial harmony in Singapore schools. There are lots of efforts such as even racial harmony day and school events to encourage people to learn about each other’s culture. Even though there will exist rifts wherever there are differences, whether that is societal status, race, religion e.t.c., these efforts can go a long way to helping reduce it significantly. This is because many of a person’s worldview is actually shaped by one’s teenage years. This will at least also widen existing citizens’ acceptance of new immigrants, making it easier for foreigners to socially integrate into our country as it is a two way street.