382732 not here to steal jobs woman says after poll finds 2 in 5 singaporeans unsure citizenship is granted to the right people singapore news

Not here to steal jobs, woman says after poll finds 2 in 5 Singaporeans unsure citizenship is granted ‘to the right people’, Singapore News

At age 20, Joyce Tan came to Singapore from the Philippines in 2009 to look for a job.

She found love instead.

“There’s so many reasons why I fell in love with my husband,” she quipped in an interview with AsiaOne, adding that they met through mutual friends.

“Being growth-oriented, he’s a man who’s serious about improving himself,” she shared.

Returning to the Philippines after five days, Tan continued a long-distance relationship with her Singaporean partner before marriage was on the cards in 2010.

Three kids and 11 years later, Tan, a Singapore permanent resident then, had a difficult decision to make.

Applying to be a Singapore citizen meant renouncing her Philippine citizenship, the IT sales executive explained.

“I thought a lot about my family back in the Philippines”, she said. “But at the same time, I wanted to start my own life in Singapore.

“It’s safer in Singapore with so many CCTVs around, and it’s cleaner too… I want that for myself, and my own kids to grow up here as well.”

The process to be a Singapore citizen took a year to complete, said Tan, adding that the highlight was receiving her pink-coloured National Registration Identity Card during the Citizenship Ceremony on Oct 2021.

“I had goosebumps,” the mother-of-three quipped. “I was telling myself, ‘Do I deserve all this?’

“When I sang the national anthem and recited the pledge, I was teary-eyed. I can’t believe that I got the chance to be a Singaporean.”

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While there is an average of about 22,000 new citizens like Tan every year, a survey by AsiaOne found that a significant proportion of Singapore-born citizens have doubts about the selection criteria.

The survey, held from March 7 to April 3, was conducted to understand Singaporeans’ attitudes towards the selection and naturalisation of new citizens.

About 44.5 per cent of the 3,012 respondents were unsure that the government is granting citizenship “to the right people”, and 20.7 per cent felt that the government “should not allow so many to take up citizenship”.

Just 5.7 per cent of the respondents agree that the selection criteria is “well-calibrated”, while 4.5 per cent felt that the government should “allow more to take up Singapore citizenship”.

While the government does not entirely reveal how new citizenships are granted, there were spirited discussions in Parliament recently surrounding the selection criteria.

On Feb 27 during the Committee of Supply debates, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said that he would advocate for an English test when assessing a person’s application for citizenship or permanent residency in Singapore.

Adding that Singaporeans “do not want new citizens who don’t want to live here but only want the power of the Singapore passport for their convenience”, Singh asked: “Is a working proficiency in English a criteria for citizenship for better integration between new citizens and Singaporeans of all races and religions, since English is our main language of communication?”

In response, Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said that a naturalisation test or interviews are not used because “all tests have pitfalls”.

She also expressed her misgivings about how much an English test would help, given that those inept in English are likely to be foreign spouses.

Immigration authorities here “consider various markers of social integration” such as an applicant’s family ties to Singapore or whether they completed National Service instead, added Teo.

About 68% say English test should be part of application process

But according to the results from AsiaOne’s survey, 68.1 per cent of Singapore-born respondents believed that an English test should be part of the country’s citizenship application process.

The length of residence in Singapore (57.1 per cent), completion of National Service (49.9 per cent) and education level (43.7 per cent) were also ranked amongst the most important criteria.

The survey findings reflect that Singaporeans value how new Singaporeans should be able to communicate with existing citizens, according to AsiaOne’s Consumer Insights and Analytics Office head Edmund Chua.

But we should be mindful that communication is “multi-dimensional” and language competency is but one of many factors which include empathy, shared experiences, and desire to forge meaningful relationships, he pointed out.

A good citizenship selection criteria should hopefully be able to look beyond language competency to also measure a candidate’s ability and willingness to connect authentically,” Chua said, adding that many respondents have also considered National Service, community service, and job creation as important selection criterion.

‘I contribute to Singapore’: Tan

Tan was granted a Singapore citizenship, but does she see herself as a Singaporean?

“Yes, I adopted how Singaporeans speak. The lahandwow” she quipped. “My kids also spoke to me with some basic Chinese phrases.”

Being a Singapore citizen is not just the colour of one’s identity card. For Tan, it means “being a friend and contributing to the country”.

“I didn’t come here to steal jobs from [Singaporeans],” she said when AsiaOne asked if she had received any anger directed towards her as a new citizen.

“I got hired because of what my employers had seen in me. The skills that I have.”

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Sheshared that volunteering with Team Nila is the best way to give back to a place she loves and now calls home.

The movement is led by national agency Sport Singapore and promotes the culture of giving, citizenship partnership and social cohesion through sport.

“I don’t want to have any regrets and say that I became a Singaporean just because my family is here,” said Tan, who also participates in beach clean-ups with her children.

“I get to interact with real Singaporeans, make friends and get to know them. Volunteering is fulfilling and fun.

“The government has given me a chance to be a Singaporean, I might as well give back as much as I can.”

ALSO READ: ‘Singapore is the least judgemental place’: Woman opens up about journey to becoming a citizen

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