Why Are the Young Singaporeans Thinking of Leaving?

Hey Nix

Hope you and your family are doing well! I chanced upon your blog while researching on migrating to Australia. It was lovely to read about the experiences and tribulations of a person who’s been there and done that, risked everything to dare to live his dream. I respect you and I am determined to do so as well.

I came back from Australia just a month ago. I was there for 10 days with my family, visiting my sister in Uni of Queensland in Brisbane, touring the Great Ocean Rd at Melbourne and visiting Gold Coast. I am at the crossroads of my life, having just gotten out of NS, ready to start university. So I have been thinking hard for 2 years about what I truly want from life. After going through NS I did some travelling to Japan, Taiwan and Australia, using my savings. I have always had wanderlust and really wanted to get out of the little red dot to see what life outside Singapore is like. I love travelling, and activities such as sky diving, surfing and bungee jumping are things I hope to enjoy in my life. I loved the Japanese culture and consideration for others, but the working culture seems quite stifling, similar to Singapore. Taiwanese are a great bunch of people, but stress is high too with long working hours too, although the scenery is great. I found Australia to be absolutely amazing. The people are friendly and laid back (most of them), great weather, lovely scenery and good work-life balance. I liked Australia the most out of the three.

Thinking hard, I compared my projected future life 15 years down the road between Singapore and that of Australia and I realized that no matter how hard I work, I can never get what I want from Singapore that I could in Australia (good work life balance, open space to roam and explore, conducive environment for family). I am not afraid of hard work. I am afraid of bad returns for hard work. I don’t think I can ever achieve my dreams in Singapore, slaving away at a job to pay for my flat which costs 600k, dealing with competition and increasing population density and infrastructural strains. I also wonder how my children will survive in the competitive education system which focuses on results as opposed to learning. I found Australia to be balanced, as they reward tradesmen and white collar workers with degrees alike, so everyone can pursue their interest. I also disagree with the government’s policies – they rely too much on economic reasoning, in so failing to account for negative social aspects. From my observations, PAP is only interested in making us attractive to MNCs, foreigners and investment from overseas. In 1965 when Singapore just started out, PAP focused on attracting MNCS and foreign investment as a means to feed that first generation of Singaporeans. But eventually the means superceded the end, and the lives of Singaporeans have become increasingly unbearable while PAP becomes more entrenched in the system it has created, wooing foreign talent, cheap labour, while suppressing freedom of speech to maintain a stable environment for MNCs and investors to be confident in. Singaporeans’ roles are simplified to providing security (NS), and a technically-capable workforce (accountancts, lawyers, doctors, managers) which can support MNCs operations. In such a system, I can only see the Singaporean paying more for property and getting less out of their efforts (In contrast, foreign talent get to buy a bungalow in their homeland after a few years of work) I do not forsee myself nor my children to be able to reach for their dreams. I don’t want to be just a cog in a machine, working till I wear out and become useless. I want to live life by my own terms, and I am not afraid of hardship, only if it gets me to my dreams. And I don’t give a damn about social status or bullshit prestige.

Thus I told my parents about this option that I am considering and decided to do more research on migrating to Australia. My parents are pretty open minded and they too agreed that Singapore is becoming unliveable and unsustainable. My current plan is this: I will complete my degree in Accountancy in NUS, work three years in an accountancy firm (Big 4 if possible) and get accredited as CPA. Thereafter I will apply for PR in Australia with my 3 years savings.

However I have some questions. Since you have been in Perth for over a year, I would like to know if the demand for accountants is good? If so, which type (e.g. Tax accountant, auditor etc). This is so that I can realistically gauge whether I can practice in the profession I am trained in. If it is not in demand, will studying a Masters in Finance in one of Australia’s universities aid my PR application and employability? If not, I shall consider enrolling for one of the 2 year courses to become a tradesman (as I have read on Hardwarezone), so that I will have two skill sets to fall back on. Which type of tradescraft/skills are in demand?

I am pretty sure that this is the path I am willing to take, and time is on my side as I am still young. I shall try my best to save up for money in Australia and perhaps even be able to afford a downpayment for a property in Australia by the time I get CPA accreditation.

About the CPA accreditation in Singapore, do I need to be a member of the CPA in Australia or do I just need to have my accountancy skills assessed by one of the assessing authorities for Accountants (e.g. CPA, ICAA, CPAA) for PR application?

I will greatly appreciate it if you can highlight areas I have to find out more about if I were to migrate. I will be reading www.immi.gov.auvery closely.

Thanks for taking your time to read my email, I am sure you are busy.


Hi J*,

We are pretty good here, thank you. Hope you are doing great there too. How did you find my blog on the internet? I only sent it to my friends. Well, I'm just a nobody both as a citizen and netizen so I thank you for your good opinion towards my story. That being said, there wasn't anything that I did that you couldn't do if you want to.

I have never visited any part of Australia except Perth and you have seen more of Australia than me by now. That is a good thing for sure, having the chance of seeing more at age of 21. Your friend here only took his first plane trip after his mid 20s to Bangkok. I always hear people say that a 'tourist's view' is always rose tinted. What do you think of that? Come to think of it, I have to agree with that to an extent. If we look at our homeland Singapore from a tourist point of view, what will we think of it? Heaven is a place on Earth, perhaps? Don't get me wrong. I wasn't belittling your research work and observations. I am sharing this because I can see myself in you. However, every dream starts with over-simplified visions. Should we look at complex details too early, it drowses the enthusiasm before we can even try. The habit of projecting life into the future is a curse. Believe me, I happen to know what I am talking about. Perhaps, I shouldn't call that a habit, it is a form of survival instinct. To those who understands, it is a necessity.

I felt a surge of sadness for Singapore when I hear the pessimism from someone like you. You are young, very young, well schooled, just completed NS and should be looking forward to starting your career in excitement just like many of your peers (or so I thought). I always thought I have reason being a failed product of the Singapore system, to look for a chance elsewhere. You have not tried and failed like me. I don't mean that you should if you are certain there is no future for you. I don't want to lie to you, I wished I saw that coming at an earlier age. Thus, I don't want to be a hypocrite and tell you all the politically correct crap. You didn't write to me for that, I'm sure. But I am a Singaporean, I grew up with fond memories of the land. I can't help feeling sad to see people in their late twenties such as J and MJ trying to leave Singapore last year and then now I have a 21 year old young man with a supposedly bright future ahead of him who doesn't buy into the vision sold by the MIWs. If many of your peers are like minded, I'm afraid the future of Singapore doesn't look good.

Anyway, I don't want to judge you and I am not in the position to do so. Everyone has their right to pursue what they want. Let me cut the crap and give you my dangerous opinions to my best knowledge. Firstly, you have the support of your parents. I supposed that's half the battle won. Your plan sounds almost identical to another guy in his mid 20s (now you see why I am alarmed) who contacted me a year ago, get the degree, get into Big 4 and get the CPA asap. Then get out, funded by whatever you can scrimped by not going after girls too much during the three years. (I mean, this part was his plan, and not necessarily yours). The sentiment of people around me in this field was that accountants and taxation seems to be hotter here in Perth than external auditors. Allow me to persuade you to look at the visa application and employability separately. Though they appear to be correlated, both are actually very different things. For example a mining engineer may be able to get a PR visa granted without a problem today but he may not find related work in WA in today's market. Does that mean he should not have taken a mining degree? This decision has a profound impact on your future and doesn't come with no risk. At the current standings, I don't see the need of getting a Masters for merely the purpose of your visa application but don't let that stop you if you have the interest and motivation in pursuing that. As for employability is concerned, it is impossible to tell the future performances of sectors given the global economic instability of today. From my point of view, accounting is a traditional field to go into, as compared to sexy ones like Biofuel Process Engineer, Natural Healing or Criminal Psychology. If there isn't employment opportunities in WA, there are always the Eastern states to look at. If there isn't a need for accountants in any capital cities of Australia, I have to say we have either moved to the Antarctica or turned to barter trading. It is up to you if you are game to join by then. Since the future is unknown, I will advise you to focus on getting the PR first and worry about jobs demand later. Since you mentioned that you are willing to get your hands dirty to go the tradesman route, why worry about what you will be doing here at this stage? The possibilities are aplenty. At your age, the sky is the limit. Who knows you will be a hot-air balloon pilot or something here? So remember, focus on getting your PR - just that for now. 

There are a few people around me who can answer your question regarding CPA accreditation. One of them is my wife. Unfortunately all of them are asleep now and I am not going to wake any. How about taking CPA (Australia) instead, that was what my wife did so the accreditation pain was saved. As far as I know, it is not necessary to have a CPA to be eligible for the PR application. Unless the rules have changed again, your degree + the required years of relevant work experience are sufficient to get you through. This will be the most important area I will highlight as your migration homework. Keep your eyes glued on the changes at immi.gov.au all the time. 

Good luck and feel free to update me. 



  1. J thinks and write so well I think he will have no problems anywhere he goes. Parents will always support what their children wants to do and it is very hard for them to say no. On the other hand, many know the situation in Sg and do not discourage their children from migrating even though they would love to have their children around them.
    The only concern with J's plan is if and how immigrations policies will change in a few years.
    Good luck J.

  2. I think its very different to go on holiday and actually uproot yourself and live in another country. Socially, you have to start from ground 0, culturally, you have to be a "guru" in adapting. Establishing yourself in a new place takes courage, patience and the willingness to be humble. You always have to remember that its always possible that racism comes into play in hiring. Its like how Singaporeans see migrants from China, India, Indonesia etc. You have to accept its no longer your right to be in this country, to get good jobs, to have access to cheap and available healthcare.

    I was born and bred in Singapore. Academically, I think I did okay, went to VJC, finished my accounting degree with honours from NTU and got offered a job in the big 4 prior to graduation. (All my life I believed that as long as I studied hard, I would have opportunities to excel anywhere.) When I migrated I had a valid visa to work, I had finished my CPA exams but was a few months short for the relevant 3 years experience (it doesn't matter cos Aus doesn't recognize SG CPA anyway). Despite the ability to communicate well in English, I couldn't get a job despite sending multiple resumes. Its depressing and frustrating because the reasons were always the same 1) No PR 2) No local experience. Hence, the two salient factors you must get over to get a job as an accountant in Aus is 1) PR 2) Local Australian experience. At one stage, I was open to any job, bank teller, call centre, waitress, librarian. (Jobs people in my current profession won't even think of. Through my experience, I learnt to have a newfound respect for any profession.)

    When you land a perm job in a company, no worries they will sponsor your training in CA, Aus CPA and whatever professional accreditation that rocks your boat. The best advice for J is, get your PR before you come. When you come, try to get Australian experience as soon as you can and as much as you can. Even if you have to travel far away without a car, or start at a lower position, or do jobs you see as menial, even if you have no benefits in your job. If you are indeed blessed with a job, grab with both hands and do your best. Good luck!