There are two major dimensions of social integration – among the various races and between local-born and foreign-born residents. It seems that we pay less attention to the latter.
Our dependence on foreigners is one of the highest in the world.
Each year we accept over 30,000 new permanent residents and convert about 25,000 of them into new citizens. In addition, we have over one million foreign workers here.
In 1980, citizens accounted for 91 per cent of our total population (foreign workers included). Last year, the percentage share dropped to 62 per cent. About one-quarter of our citizens are foreign-born new citizens.
Large numbers of immigrants and foreign workers can become a destabilising factor even in bigger nations like France and Britain.
As the inflow of foreigners is likely to continue, we have to be better prepared to deal with the increasing challenges in coming years.
I suggest we set measurable targets in our integration plan.
For example, we should set targets on organising free tours for new permanent residents to know more about Singapore within one year of their arrival – visiting historical landmarks, museums, community clubs and other social organisations.
In celebrating national events like National Day, reserve one-third of the seats for new citizens.
Community and social clubs should set their own targets on participation rates of foreign-born residents.
In the end, social integration is a daily affair.
We need all residents to play their part and display sincerity, ardour and good neighbourliness in our daily life.
Albert Ng Ya Ken