New Chinese immigrants in Singapore : barriers of integration
Date of Issue2017-08-23
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This study explores three key propositions through analyzing how language, sentiment and policy barriers are involved in the integration process of New Chinese immigrants. Based on the empirical data gathered from them directly in addition to online news reports and forum comments, this study makes the following arguments. Firstly, this study analyzed the ongoing failure of pervasive English training in immigrants sending country caused the existence of English language barrier when many new Chinese immigrants entering the Singaporean host society. To better tackle the English language barrier, this study suggests both the new Chinese immigrants and the host society should work together to locate a bridging channel to enhance immigrants’ English proficiency while allowing them speaking Chinese as their main communicative vehicle before well equipped with considerable English competence. To make it happen, the Singaporean authority needs to appropriate public funds for subsidizing English class which can be taken up by all the residents and non-residents with Long-term Visiting Pass (LTVP). At the end of the day, this study believes to achieve linguistic integration, immigrants whether seek for renewal of Employment Pass, permanent residency or naturalized citizenship of Singapore, they must show their proficiency of English, at least they need to prove that they have such potential to acquire this language within a stipulated time. In one word, it is the Singaporean multilinguistic landscape calls for immigrants’ integration through the enhanced English proficiency. Secondly, as this study concluded, the anti-immigrant sentiment was most probably overestimated the perspective of my designated population: highly educated new Chinese immigrants. Because it is largely based on media reports and online forums and partly due to the New Racism ideology went viral with the pressure both covertly and overtly brought in to host society by the immigrants. My in-depth interviews have also shown these group of people are not bothered by the anti-immigrant sentiment. More importantly, the unique residential patterns of Singapore further provided a workable platform to promote intra-ethnic communication both at neighborhood and community level thus would help to decrease of the anti-immigrant sentiment rather than growing. Resident community is a feasible platform to engage the new immigrants. When it comes to integration, immigrants can be educated and their commitment to be part of the community can be nurtured. To many new Chinese immigrants, kids are one of the main reasons why they choose to settle down in Singapore. Successfully engaging immigrant kids into resident community, in the meantime, their parents will join in together. In addition, having new immigrants as volunteers and grassroots leaders would help to enhance the community interaction and at the same time served as an essential pillar to alleviate the sentiment of anti-immigrant with the unique residential pattern that has been discussed early. Thirdly, even the "Singaporeans-first" policies pervasively affected the life the new Chinese immigrants including but not limited to immigration, education and housing rights and benefits, the new Chinese immigrants generally understand and support the rationales behind the "Singaporeans-first" policies. Nevertheless, for new immigrants with school age kids, the "Singaporeans-first" policies would most probably act as the catalyst that motivate non-PR immigrants pursue PR status and PRs turn themselves into naturalized citizens so as to be fairly treated under the “Singaporeans-first” policies. As for the “highly selective strategy” which considered as the byproduct of the “Singaporeans-first” policies, it has pervasively affected the lives of the PR and non-PR new Chinese immigrants, and it has the potential to disintegrate the commitment to be an integral part of the host society that many non-PR and PR uphold in terms of the failure of their parents' LTVP application, the immigrants' family planning and many others. Although there is necessity to employ the “highly selective strategy” to screen PR application, the responsible authority needs to be reminded that it has the potential to backlash the social integration as the effect of this strategy could easily come across the country border for some transnational families. Besides, it also discourages the immigrants’ family planning in some circumstances. Therefore, it is better for the immigration authority to humanely calibrate the application of the “highly selective strategy” when necessary. Regarding the emergent citizenship dilemma, it can be argued that with the implement of the “Singaporeans-first” policies, PR immigrants soon realize that they have to deal with a citizenship dilemma. This is because the “Singaporeans-first” policies aiming to largely constrict the benefits that PRs have been entitled for years. Unlike other nations, the most distinction is voting rights between PR and citizen. To most Singapore PR who face housing, child education and many other needs, they have less choice but to consider to be naturalized citizens rather than staying on their PR status comfortably as the latter almost cut the chances for their children to enter the public school, hard to bring their parents to take care of kids and so on and so forth. In addition, one cannot denial that not all PR immigrants are affected by the “Singaporeans-first” policies. To this group of immigrants, they seem to be comfortable whether to be naturalized Singapore citizens thus falling into a much pragmatic category which have little to do with their integration. Therefore, I use the notion of emergent citizenship dilemma with a question mark to differentiate the consequence of the “Singaporeans-first” policies as only those who pervasively affected by the policies would possibly backlash the integration into the host society. In one word, barriers in terms of English language, anti-immigrant sentiment and the “Singaporeans-first” policies which impeded progress of integration for new Chinese immigrants in the past would be alleviated if not collapse as time goes by. And more importantly, reviewing the barriers of integration is worth doing constantly with the ever-changing immigration and integration practice in Singapore as the immigrants’ host society.