Do You Really Think Singaporeans Migrate for Economic Reasons?

I used to share tales of Singaporeans in Perth often but felt short later because it didn't feel nice to share personal stories of real people like that. However, I had people walking up to me during gatherings who told me a particular sharing (which I would have forgotten I did that) benefited him a lot. Some of them also connected after reading the stories. For example, the nurses would contact the nurses, the teachers would contact the teachers, parents with special needs children, IT workers, funky people living in Melbourne etc.

It has been some time since I last shared a story of somebody I've met here. This isn't one of those story but one constructed by combining Duchess' sharing about some Singaporeans she met during her course in Perth and my own thoughts after having some conversations with a few Singaporeans in Singapore, one being my personal friend.

Lately an ex-Singaporean who left Singapore in 1989 wrote to me. I felt tempted to share her email but it was quite personal so I decided against it. There was something she said that I will quote for today's discussion. "Migration is like music, it resonates differently with different people." How apt she had put it. Like how the lyrics of the golden oldie "Hotel California" goes, This could be heaven or this could be hell. How then, shall one answer to the question, "Is living in Australia (or any country) better than living in Singapore?" by the curious minds of Singaporeans contemplating a move but have absolutely no idea if it suits them.

Singaporeans of all walks of life migrate to Australia. You have the slaves, peasants and even elites. I personally got to know a Singaporean who ran a successful restaurant business for many years who decided to call it quits and moved to Perth. From the last time I heard from him, he was washing cars for a living and his wife was a bus driver. Another gentleman who ran multiple business wrote to me and told me (at that point in time) he was selling up his businesses and properties in Singapore moving to Indonesia for opportunities and was looking at the possibility of moving to Australia in eventuality. Then there were career high flyers, normal salaried peasants and slaves like me who moved. 

As we can see, there is little to indicate that migration is about economic issues, like the way our MSM would always paint to the people. Still, I've received noob remarks recently that stated things like "High taxes", "Medical is not free" or whatever crap else I don't bother reading more. Stale. Let's put it this way, there are more new Singaporeans moving our directions than Singaporeans moving back to Singapore. Only the fools will continue to insist that migration is all about dollar and cents. To illustrate this with a real life example, I'll attach a Facebook feed that I came across this morning.

Like I said, different strokes for different folks. Logging on to Facebook after my first landing in Perth 2 years ago was the last thing on my mind but there you go, a Singaporean who chose to tell you why he left as his first priority, before going on to enjoy the beautiful landscape and fresh air of NZ or drooling on the lower prices of cars.

Back to Duchess' story. She spoke too quickly for my retarded mind so forgive me for my poor story telling. Her course mate included a couple of Singaporeans. One particular couple came in their 40s, with three kids, gave up their well paying careers to take a course in hope of being eligible (with no guarantees)  for Permanent Residency later on. Within a week or two of Perth life her children asked, "Mum, we are not going back to Singapore after you finish your course right?

Meanwhile, one of my old friend in Singapore told me his Permanent Resident visa is expiring soon but he could not make himself take the big leap because he couldn't get a job offer in Australia. Such irony - the ones without the visas are desperate to stay, the one who has it is unwilling to move.

Singaporeans returning to Singapore for good is not unheard of here though it is quite rare. In a few months't time, I'll have to cope with the return of someone I regard as a good friend in Perth. She has been a great motivator and friend to my family since I came so her departure will be sorely missed. I didn't want to probe so much into her reasons of moving back and I gathered it was due to better career opportunities. 

Through my journey I met many Singaporeans and tried to understand their mentality behind their moves. The reasons were aplenty and wide ranging but rarely about money. Elsewhere outside Australia, we even have Singapore bloggers who moved out of Singapore to live in the jungles or exploring uncharted strange land, building their farming empires respectively. In comparison, Singaporeans who returned to Singapore were often monetarily motivated more than anything else.


  1. thanks for sharing your thoughts...

  2. Australia is never a place to look Job or Business if you're still young ( Money Factors) If You're young,Australia is a Great and Fun place to further your study ,Australia is a great place for short Vocation Holiday or if you're past 50 as alternative semi-retirement .If you're smart enough to invest early to own a 2 small bed-room apartment in Australia is great.

    Nick, What you suppose to do is this, since you're Singaporean and your wife as Malaysian. With Aussie child.

    My wife and me are local Singaporean with 13 years son now, Both of us got an offer of opportunity being Kiwis PRs in late 80s even though we already foresee ,what life as Singaporean will be .

    We didn't take the offers as Singapore are just with booming economy and that time we are young working couple of late 20s,and just about getting our 5 room HDB. During that time we already see Kiwi economy ain't doing great, with many unemployment ,we spend our honeymoon there,my aunt already migrated there since 70s.

    Recently, I Quit my Job and renounce my SG citizenship at 50 ,to be a Malaysian, as My late father is a Malaysian. Leaving my wife and my son to remain as Singaporean. I withdraw all my CPF including the Medisave to purchase a house in JB and Perth apartment as investment.

    Our 5 room we rented out for 2.5K for the last past 6 years, after transferring ownership to my wife and son , we are living in JB since then by communicating my teaching wife as she's on pension scheme till her 55 which about 4 years time and my son to school with my brand Malaysian car every week. Two School holiday June and December ,where we spent our time in Perth.

    We intends to moves to Perth 3 months living or with extention social visa , for my son education period before moving back to MY
    So we are Juggling in between Singapore ,Malaysia and Australia. ,isn't that beautiful we don't need any PRs VISA by doing that?

    So wasn't sure IF You and Jen ,can move back to Singapore and Work make money till let say , apply BTO. Move back to Aussie till Albany grow up to further his study, Then Your whole family can carry on retirement there?

    1. Rules on cpf or hdb or visa can change anytime. Health can also change anytime.

    2. Hi Johari,

      If you would leave your email, I'll like to ask you some questions regarding what you suggested.

  3. I have been in Perth for almost 6 years. In the beginning, it was good as we were busy looking for Job and house to settle down. When those dust are done and dusted you would see something that you would never expect. Things like having a landed property, you will worry about the burglary and safety (car rams into houses), as you know crime rate is pretty high here, hoon drivers everywhere. When husband and wife have higher income, you will worry about paying high tax and lose all the family benefits from govt. In fact, you have to pay more. Health care is a problem here, we thought that medical is free well nothing is free. The Govt encourages us to take up Private Health Insurance and they dont come cheap else you will pay more with medicare levy. To me it's not an insurance, it's a medical central fund. You will lose it when you don't use it and it's nothing like life insurance. Yes, you can have a luxury car for a little money but then you will worry about car thief which is pretty common here. The Job here has got no prospect and progression, you can for work for more than 10 years for the same position. Also before when you moving everywhere while you are an Aussie resident, the tax man will come after you whatever income that you've earned from overseas. The Australia govt is in big debts at the moment because they keep giving out money and do not spend the money wisely. And now it's time to taking it back from the residents and no longer what you think 3 years ago.
    Think carefully!

    1. Indeed, Perth is living hell as described. In fact, I'm thinking of moving to Somalia. I hope they don't tax.

    2. as for me, Singapore medishield system doesn't benefit me. I cannot upgrade due to my medical condition. if I do upgrade, I will not be compensated for any surgery remotely related indirectly to the existing condition I have.

      so far so good, I have made use of the medical levy pretty good as a single, as well as the pte health insurance. I even have acquaintances who had a good laff at OZ govt to accept such a money losing goods as me for a migrant. I wud say I exceeded the $ (4 figure sum) I paid for the pte insurance :))

    3. Nick, it's better to move to Dubai...ZERO tax.

    4. I.S, for your condition I would stay in OZ till I die.


      Everywhere is the same. Just a matter what you want to shut off in your mind.

    6. donald - your comments about perth sound interesting. so are you back in sg or are you already a citizen in perth?

    7. Ok, Donald, what I am about to write is not personally targeting you but I am trying to bring a perspective to what you wrote. Certainly the problems you listed may seem very real to you but I think some readers out there may be mislead to think that you signed on into a siong unit the way you make it sound like you did.

      If you are the sort who cannot tahan anyone saying something different from you, you are in the wrong blog forum and you better stop reading NOW


      Firstly, there may be burglary and car rams in Perth every day for all I know but I know in eastern Australia, it is very rare. People are a lot smarter and the ram ATM machine or bottle shops, even then it's like 2or 3 cases over last 5 years at best. If you are so worried about burglary then you can install the nice grills we see in every single HDB flat in SG, and if you own your own pity, you can install your own locked gates and wall. Simple. Having 'issues' with landed property security is a first world problem. Except the first world SG have replaced it with iron bars in hole in the sky flats happily paid for by the citizen tenants (since you don't really own the HDB flat like the way Aussie or Malaysian do with their home). Same deal about your rant about luxury cars.

      2. Everybody and their mother knows Australia have higher taxes; that's why they can have welfare and other 'freebies'. Even your regular 80 year old ah soh selling tissue paper knows that. So unless people are uninformed when they sign on the dotted line to become Aussie resident, you can't say you don't know and then keep comparing SG and au tax rates. Furthermore the taxation actually got a bit fair over the last 20 years under John Howard time where the threshold for the highest personal income rate of 48% actually got raised so that many middle income family can keep more of their earning.

      3. As much as I am critical about how many people perceived Medicare as a unlimited free nationalised health care insurance, it is very beneficial for many people who are just starting out to saving some cash, and get sick when young. You whinge about not actually owning the right to direct money you contributed to Medicare to your own personal use. But it is like complain in Singapore that you pay taxes and yet you can't call mata police to guard your property. Furthermore I dare say neither you or nix have contributed enough taxes to pay for one big illness requiring hospital admission, surgery, drugs and on going care. Remember your contribution to Medicare is at best 1.5% of your annual taxable income.

      4. You complain there is no job prospect; not sure if you meant there is a glass ceiling in your workplace or that there is no creation of higher level jobs for you to move into. If you had no one pointing a gun at you to come to Australia, I am sure a smart man like you should have recce the area you want to work in. Not forgetting that Australia produce thousand of brand new hungry graduate with big debts willing to work for lower pay, I am sure that a merticulous check on the labour market should reveal how likely the employment prospects are and where If any are the opportunities to grow. But ah then I am assuming you did the sensible thing to start with. Btw I don't know what kind of work you are in but even lawyers and accountants and doctors and managers stay in exactly the same positions for years until they retire in SG in Au and for that matter the rest of the world.

      5. Australian government comes and go. Labour spend, liberal save, green and democrats stand on high moral grounds but expect everyone else to pay for their policies. You vote, and hopefully you get what you vote. Don't whinge if you have a real choice in deciding who gets in.

      Australia can be a bed of roses for some who come with open eyes, those who come wearing only tinted glasses will find the thorns quickly underneath the roses.

    8. XYZ, I can tahan people keep saying good things about OZ but I also want to highlight the bad things about OZ from my perspective. I know you like to condemn Singapore but i did not compare those things with Singapore. Please take it easy!

    9. XYZ, I also want to highlight I am not a Singaporean. Please do not keep saying about Singapore. Basically, I do not understand what you were saying.

    10. Donald, you can plead innocence about Singapore, but you cannot deny what I wrote about Australia. Simply take out all references about SG in my post. It will still stand on its own.

      Furthermore your posts so far over the last 2 weeks has been very negative about Australia. Maybe if you are unhappy about living in Australia for these main reasons, may I suggest migrating to Singapore then?

      Lower tax rate
      Lower interest rate than Oz
      Better security than Oz (definitely no car ramming)
      Few landed ppty worries (since it is very hard to get one)
      Few luxury car worries since many people cannot afford one
      Excellent job prospects for those with right qualification, willing to work very hard and for less money
      Stable government, who don't like to spend money

      You can join the 20000 Australians living there.

    11. So Donald, you're not a Singaporean - what are you then? I'm quite interested to know where you're from and where you are residing now to be able to understand and quantify the post you made about Perth......

      ...was thinking of dissecting your comments..but xyz beat me to it.....

    12. I am a Malaysian living in Perth. Actually, emigrate to Singapore is not bad as an expat and i do not mind.
      "Excellent job prospects for those with right qualification, willing to work very hard and for less money" that's not right. I have friends work less for more.
      "Stable government, who don't like to spend money" - Govt can spend money but spend wisely on taxpayer money.
      Migration is not for everyone it might be good for you but might not for others...those may think that this is a heaven some may not. So you can say the positive sides and I can say the negative sides. Freedom of speech, no offence.

    13. Precisely my thought.

      What ever you want to say, you can go ahead and say it. Be my guest. But in a open forum (albeit moderated by Nix) you also need to say things that can stand up to scrutiny. Otherwise be prepared to be challenged and holes in your post exposed for everyone to see.

      I am not a troll, and if you look back far enough, I am not SG govt's sycophant either for that matter. But I do not like it if anyone can only complain about something and not offer a balanced view of things. For other people who found Nix's blog because they (singaporeans) want to find out about Australia (and more importantly, Perth), then I want to ensure there is a counter balance to every thing within reason. Like I wrote, all your posts for the last 2 weeks is so negative that it is misleading, that a naive person will think that Singaporean migrants in Perth are living in fear of their wellbeing, and cannot get a fair go at opportunities. Maybe it is true for you in WA, but certainly less so in the Eastern seaboard.

      And as you can see, I have taken on everyone (including Nix) when there is such a need.

    14. Although I dont mind been paid by SG government as a sycophant... I head they pay well :))

    15. Oh BTW Donald

      There is sizable number of Australians working in Singapore, but very few of them has benefits and pay of the "expat" as we used to have. Most have local conditions or slightly better pay (up to 10%) for your "international experience" but only 1/3 have car and housing allowance unless you are headhunted or sent there by your MNC.

      Worse still because you and I look like Singaporean, speak English like Singaporean, you will be treated like SG and then if you dont do something well, they say they shouldnt have paid you like a foreigner.

      It's a bit like Singaporean Chinese in 1990s going to China to do business. They thought they have an advantage over the Westerner with special relationship but the SG do business in Western style whereas the Chinese officials expect chinese way of doing business (plenty of red packets and entertainment big spending). Ironically the Chinese does not expect Western companies to bride them and understands and forgive them more if the Westerners dont grease the Chinese with money.

      Which is why I dont intend to go back to work in SG unless it is on my terms

    16. I think is WA. I would have the negative impact if I were in the eastern states. Things are more expensive here even tourists can feel it when they travel across the states. WA is the most expensive state in Australia and also not as safe as other states.

    17. Pardon me, I would not have.

    18. Xyz, "Although I dont mind been paid by SG government as a sycophant... I head they pay well :))" - I was going to do that.

    19. I think NT is the most expensive state. I have been working in all states except tas. Food in nt is at least 20% more, up to 50% if fresh food. Housing is limited and expensive since the council limits residential development

    20. Btw Donald

      If you do get contracted to SG government as syncophant, insist on Australian rates, don't spoil the market by offering yourself too cheap

  4. Dear Nick ,

    IF ,I 'm You and Jen, work in Singapore, get the grant ,apply BTO first. Spend time ,Let Albany and you closer with your mum while she's around ,While waiting for 5 years MOP,you can rent out rooms first.

    After 5 Years Total sublet, stay in JB ,maybe rent a terrace house for 1 k ringgit. Jen off work to fetch you and Albany after work and school. When Jen is over 50 she can withdraw her CPF immediately.
    you can nominate her of your CPF if anything happened to you, she directly got cash unless you dominated Singapore.since they implemented with
    stupid enchanted nomination scheme and minimum sum.

    1. The only flaw is the assumption that conditions stay exactly the same for the next 10 years. And we all know uncle lee and his mates often changes the game plan. For example, who can originally predict they will introduce the cpf minimum sum scheme.

      So, don't pray pray ok?

    2. XYZ ,

      Lets us agree to disagree on the issue of one's opinion .In my own observations, it doesn't matters how long does someone's has been living in Australia,as Australian or PRs to be seen as true Australian.

      The Fact always remains, We are all migrating to Australia, in our mid-life from somewhere else. In these case, Singapore. How hard we can trying to prove ourselves to be seen as 100% Australian, the truth,this is not possible .We will always carry along with us the past baggage load of Singapore where-ever we are, Good example unlike Nick's daughter Albany,that being born as local, breed as Australian she's will definitely, truly be 100% Australian unlike both of his parents.

      As smart Alec once say You can remove Singaporean out of Singapore But you can't remove Singapore out of Singaporean.

      that's my opinion.

    3. Johari

      Notice I didn't actually say you are wrong. What I wrote is that the SG government changes the law on important long term things like cpf, medisave and HDB scheme, so much so that every one can safely assume the rules in 5 years time will be different. What works for you and anyone who already started their plan 2-3 years ago will reap the benefit of your scheme. But most people can hardly do their calculations and then move out of SG with your original predicted monies, if they only start now. I am sure that the government will tweak the system even more after the next election, that only ppl who stay in SG will benefit from nationalised services like HDB and education, and they will make sure they extract their pound of flesh for those 'quitter' migrants.

      Surely you cannot disagree with this prediction?

    4. Exactly,

      Singaporean has been astray for a decades, because they fails to understand of this government long term policy, As Singaporean,we need to be smarter to foreseen and counter this Govt. We are going to be their victims if we are not carefully plan our future.

      They only value us as Singaporean ,when we are about to starts entering N.S and till Ends of NS period co-incident with our early forties ,they value us to work for them till our productive days of early forties. After this they're going to discarded us as rubbish(They expected us to have many kids)you see their main policy "WE MUST BE PREPARED"

      Rejuvenate Singapore ever turn ,they don't really care about you when you're above forties unless you're in elite group?

      We MUST NOT fails to understand their games ,or by letting our fortitude waver because of this govt. policy either we like or not, we make use and overturn all this policy to our advantages.

      That's Why I suggesting how to beat their system at their game.

    5. One more things, If you're happened to be Singaporean Couple ,Don't let your wife to give birth in Singapore ,If you think of making USA, Canada, Australia ,your future retirement .

      BUT never to Forget REGISTERED THEIR BIRTH immediately at respective Singapore Embassy. So He/She will have the privileges of acquiring dual Citizenship till 21

    6. I totally setuju with your post 16.51 and notice your English got alot better now, your msg is now loud and clear.

      But I disagree with your 18.46 post. If a SG couple have a son, think twice and thrice and even more before signing him up as a SG citizen. Classic example of catch 22: SG law says you can't renounce your citizenship until 20 or 21 as you are not mature enough, but the law also says you must enlist at 17 or 18 years old. So Lan lan must serve no choice unless you want to be on the run forever and avoid changi airport for the rest of your life like my friend in case the SG supercomputer can find him even in transit lounge.

      Ignorance is no defence: a case in 1990s where SG father brought 2 very young sons back to india, until father dies. The 2 sons now 30 years old wants to come back and find work (india still not developing much early 1990s) and was arrested at airport. Judge belives the 2 men that they did not know anything about National service and the father did not tell them. BUT the judge is forced to send them to detention for desertion since the NS law says ignorance is NOT an excuse.

      As for baby SG girl, no problem except must apply early otherwise the SG Ministry of National Development is very NEEOOOOWWWW (fussy and bitchy) and make it very very difficult for the parents

    7. BTW Johari

      I of all people know SG government's habit of changing rules all the time.

      My father was a civil servant at a certain statutory board (he join them within a year of its creation). When he retired 30 years later they FORCED him to sell his pension (a very attractive income since the points accumulated over 30 years) for a lump sum, of which part of that sum MUST go into CPF so obviously not easily used.

      Then I found out the MPs and Ministers still get to keep their pension and now pegged to high profile CEO income.

  5. Johari's plan is very interesting.

    However, as sg does not recognise dual citizenship, one can only maintain PR in a foreign country. In the case of Australia, that means one can only be away from AU and work in sg for 3 years at a time. Otherwise, the person may lose the PR.

    Secondly, I reckon that the reasons of migration overseas are the slower pace of life, better work/life balance, the open spaces in foreign lands, better weather etc. Hence, one may not want to revisit the pressure cooking, long hours environment in sg.

    overseas sinkie

    1. Dear Sinkie Over,

      Everyone does has its priority, The idea of being a slob during younger days, if you're aware that you're not coming from elite family is not bad idea at all,to accumulated wealth the fastest way for your later days.

      I'm only suggesting to Nick, as his situations is familiar as mine. We have to be pragmatic of the situations ,that we all in, Australia offers a better place off-course for our offspring,same time,we needs the dollar backing to be advantage in enjoys his society level.

      In Nick situations, where he got to take the opportunity where 12-15 years is crucial to make that dollars, economic sense using his CPF before 55 to buy BTO as investment,as the interest rate is way below. Take the situations of Grants given being as Singaporean.

      Since you mentioned about 3/2 years PRs situations. It just some balancing acts of ways.Since HDB don't care where you're getting the money from in paying the mortgage loan beside finish off your CPF ordinary account and wife.

      Its up to you on how to beat the system,You can stay SG 3 years period to save the Aussie Pr, You can go back to Australia for the remaining 2 years holding aussie job,by leaving your wife or son to carry occupied the another 2 years term,They can spent short holiday to Australia in between. Once you completed the 5 years MOP the rest is History..

  6. Johari, good point made. The only thing is that it is hard to keep a job in both AU and sg if we were to work in sg for 3 years and au for 2 years subsequently, and we do this several times. The going back and forth is disruptive for our work especially if one holds a white collar job. If one is in the service line e.g. retail, realtor etc perhaps it is possible to be this mobile and work in 2 countries.