Stop With Your Anti-Foreigner Sentiments: Why S’poreans Should Welcome Foreign Students

Singapore’s unemployment rate is the highest it has ever been in 10 years.
Of the total unemployment numbers, over 90,500 residents were registered as unemployed, of whom 79,600 were Singaporean citizens.
In other words, there is currently a lack of jobs on the market.
The baseline salary for newly hired Employment Pass holders was raised from 1 September to S$4,500, from the initial S$3,900, while the qualifying salary for new S Pass holders will be increased from S$2,400 to S$2,500 from 1 October.
This has led to a slew of problems for international fresh graduates in Singapore, shining a light on the issue of job security and bond breaking for this group of individuals.
The Tuition Grant Scheme was introduced by the Government in 1980 to help subsidise the cost of tertiary education for students enrolled in full-time diploma or undergraduate courses.
However, as even local fresh graduates struggle to secure full-time jobs, foreign graduates are facing a mounting problem.
Unlike scholarships, the Tuition Grant Scheme does not guarantee its recipients a job in the civil service.
The graduates are expected to secure employment on their own after graduation, and have to do so within a year.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and depressed job market, many have spent months on a fruitless search for jobs.
Now, these foreign graduates worry about having to pay back the liquidated damage.
Liquidated damages are calculated based on the total grant amount the student received, plus a 10 per cent interest each year, compounded at the end of each academic year.
The final amount can range from S$80,000 to more than S$100,000.
Furthermore, many are finding that their savings are being quickly depleted after having to account for daily living expenses and rent, without having any stream of income.
The MOE is cognisant that international students have to fulfill their tuition grant obligations, and we work with the institutes of higher learning and other public agencies to help facilitate their application for the necessary work pass arrangements while keeping to the Fair Consideration Framework.
The Ministry also declined to reveal the number of foreign students under the scheme currently.
It is also unclear what will happen to the students should they be unable to find a job after repeated attempts.
Traditionally, if international graduates are unable to find employment after a year, they are required to inform MOE and provide evidence of their job search.
A 24-year-old graduate from the National University of Singapore who only wanted to be known as Sarah, told Vulcan Post that she had been sending out job applications since May, a month before graduation.
By now, she has already submitted close to a hundred applications, without a favourable response.
Many employers have converted their entry-level jobs to traineeships, which closes another window of opportunity for foreign students.
The science graduate said she is becoming “more desperate” each day, and her other international friends feel the same way too.
Even though she has begun taking up freelance work to make ends meet and stretch her dollars, she is worried about what the outcome would be if she is unable to find a job within a year.
However, she also understands that the situation she is in is unprecedented, and that the pandemic has made jobs even harder to come by.
“Of course, none of us could have predicted that this would be the economic situation four years back when I began university in Singapore. Right now all I can do is continue to apply for jobs,” she said.
Sarah also shared that she understands that some Singaporeans are resentful towards foreign students or talent like herself.
In the same report, a Vietnamese architecture graduate shared that she “has heard some of her Singaporean friends blame foreigners when they do not get their first choice of job.”
Furthermore, with countries being so connected, local students’ ties with international ones is likely to open doors to job opportunities and business connections abroad.
After their studies in Singapore, international stud…
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