Thousands of foreign workers, including London School of Economics graduates with six-digit salaries and desperately poor Bangladeshi factory workers, are streaming home as the economy in Singapore suffers the worst of the recessions in Southeast Asia, reports the Washington Post.
Singapore is an epicentre of what analysts call a new flow of reverse migration away from hard-hit, globalized economies, including Dubai and Britain, that were once beacons for foreign labour. Economists from Credit Suisse predict an exodus of 200,000 foreigners — or one in every 15 workers here — by the end of 2010.
There were 1,057,700 foreigners working in Singapore as of December last year. Foreigners accounted for 36 percent of the working people in Singapore. The majority comprising 64 percent or 1.90 million of the workforce were locals, according to the Ministry of Manpower. Overall unemployment stood at 2.6 percent in December last year, but it was higher among locals at 3.7 percent. An estimated 69,700 residents were unemployed at the time.
The New York Times reports:
Singapore, where the population is just 4.6 million compared with Taiwan’s 23 million, is particularly vulnerable to a decline in trade. It typically imports unfinished products, does some processing of the goods and then exports them, so the total dollar value of its exports and imports is far larger than its gross domestic product — about three and a half times as much, in fact. With so much of its output dependent on trade, much of it handled by multinationals with large long-term investments here, Singapore is struggling mightily.
With multinationals like General Electric running into difficulty, Singapore is shifting its strategy to luring more but smaller foreign investments from medium-size companies. It has also accelerated the construction of a government-financed town of research labs, offices and apartments for the biomedical, materials sciences and new media industries, after putting the brakes on construction a year ago because of high steel and cement prices.