New citizens need to get involved in all aspects of local life: Josephine Teo

New citizens need to get involved in all aspects of local life: Josephine Teo

At the same time, the Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office says Singaporeans can do their part, by reaching out to new citizens, and staying open as a society to people of diverse backgrounds.

New Citizenship National Ceremony

SINGAPORE: There were 20,815 new citizens, and 29,955 new Permanent Residents (PRs) in 2015, as the Government kept its “calibrated pace of immigration” said Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday (Apr 13).

Speaking in the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament, Mrs Teo gave an update on efforts to integrate new citizens and stay open as a society.

In addition to the Singapore Citizenship Journey programme that new citizens have to participate in since 2011, Mrs Teo said that new citizens “need to get involved in all aspects of local life”. This includes: learning to speak local languages; interacting with their neighbours; adapting to local behavioural norms; and taking an interest in issues that concern their fellow Singaporeans. Most importantly, Mrs Teo said, new citizens must understand Singapore’s roots as a multi-racial and multi-cultural society.

At the same time, Singaporeans can do their part, by reaching out to new citizens, and staying open as a society to people of diverse backgrounds. This, according to Mrs Teo, goes hand-in-hand with being a society that is open to new ideas and innovation; that is capable of positive change and has the capacity for excellence.

The Government supports ground-up initiatives to keep Singapore an open society, said Mrs Teo. For example, since 2009, the Community Integration Fund has disbursed S$13 million to over 660 projects by about 270 organisations.

But even with the addition of new citizens and PRs, Mrs Teo noted that the population does not fully meet Singapore’s growing workforce needs.

“However, instead of growing our population more quickly, we have decided to press on with the restructuring of our economy towards one that is less dependent on manpower for growth,” she explained, adding that as a result, the growth of Singapore’s foreign workforce has slowed considerably.

Mrs Teo noted that measures to ease the labour crunch for businesses had been earlier announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.

SINGAPOREANS ABROAD

In addition, Mrs Teo said that there are now more than 210,000 Singaporeans living, working or studying overseas for extended periods of time. According to Mrs Teo, this increase – from just 160,000 ten years ago – is a sign that Singaporeans are “increasingly mobile and welcomed by employers and educational institutions internationally”.

As a result, there are now more children born overseas to fathers or mothers who are Singaporean citizens, said Mrs Teo. These “Singapore citizens by descent” have increased by about 15 per cent, to around 1,400 annually from 2011 to 2015.

Of the 20,815 citizenships granted last year, 1,600 or 8 per cent, had gone to these “Singapore citizens by descent”, she added.

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