Expats head for exit as Singapore’s ‘easy’ COVID controls bite

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But COVID has prompted soul-searching among many relatively affluent expats in Singapore, where foreigners workers make up a fifth of the 5.5 million population. Companies and expatriate professionals have long been drawn to the business-friendly country, one of the safest places in the world with a high quality of living, political stability, a skilled workforce, ease of travel and low taxes. Some compare its strict COVID rules with more freedom back home or bemoan the inability to travel freely to visit family, while others joined the “great resignation” wave seen around the world.

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Risk-averse Singapore is trying to balance its approach to living with COVID – aiming to protect people in the densely populated island from the disease while reopening its economy and borders to maintain its reputation as a hub for capital and talent. “It’s been like this for so long. And it doesn’t feel like anything’s going to change here,” said Sandler. “Life is very, very easy here. (But) is it worth it to live such a convenient life without being able to see family, friends, without being able to travel?”

But even the number of employment passholders, or professionals earning at least S$4,500 ($3,350) monthly, fell nearly 14% from 193,700 in December 2019 to 166,900 in June 2021. Reuters Graphics Reuters Graphics That is mostly due to fewer numbers of lower-wage workers, typically employed in construction and marine services.

Singapore has continued to attract new investment and foreign talent during the pandemic, but a drop in foreigners sent its population down by the most since 1950 – 4.1% lower year-on-year as of June 2021. For Sandler, it was “devastating” that giving birth to her daughter in the middle of the outbreak meant her family did not meet her second child for a year.

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  • Expats head for exit as Singapore’s ‘easy’ COVID controls bite
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