I had a conversation with our cabbie on the way to the airport in Singapore that was worth memorializing. It’s one man’s perspective so the anecdote must be put in that context, but it’s still interesting.
Our cabbie told us that rents for nice 1 and 2BR apartments on the outskirts of town run S$3500+, and the same apartments in the CBD are closer to S$5000+. He said many foreign manual laborers were earning S$1-1500/mo ten years ago and make about the same now.
Foreign expats who come to take corporate jobs are often on contract and sign up to make S$10-12,000/mo by his estimate. While they could choose to live outside the city and save money, many live in the CBD and obviously rent consumes a substantial portion of their income each month. As a result many feel that Singapore doesn’t offer the opportunity they imagined and look to leave when their contract ends.
He said that if he didn’t have a wife and kids, he’d be looking to move to Australia, New Zealand or another economy like that as he thinks the job and living standard opportunities are better. But he thinks it’s too hard to do it if you’re not single and flexible. I thought this was interesting because to me it says a lot about a place if people want to immigrate in or emigrate out.
I asked about the press. He said the press was completely controlled by the government and they painted an often comical picture of reality compared to alternative views people can now freely access on social media. He said they don’t seem to understand how that has put the truth to their lies but nonetheless it is not a free press.
He said that the different races mostly get along, and there are no ethnic political parties, they’re all mixed, but he said it wasn’t so simple as everyone getting along with everyone else and there is definitely some stigma toward the darker skinned manual laborers from India and similar areas.
He said life is not bad in Singapore, but it just isn’t quite like the official story and a lot of people are beginning to struggle to get by and can’t manage to save, and the government doesn’t seem to have a good plan for managing this.