The Main Cause of Singapore’s Brain Drain


A paper on the main cause of Singapore’s brain drain.

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Excerpts from “The Causes of Emigration from Singapore: How Much Is Still Political?”

by Joel S. Fetzera & Brandon Alexander Millan (2015)

PDF Link to Journal Article: Taylor and Francis

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1. Brain Drain: The emigration of highly trained or intelligent people from a particular country.

Extracts from Article:

1) Efforts to maintain a robust Singaporean economy have had to confront the serious challenge of brain drain from the city-state.

2) To address the negative effects of this problem, Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has adopted a policy of increasing reliance on a foreign labor force. The PAP appears to ignore the continued loss of human and intellectual capital.

3) Data from [surveys] indicate that anti-PAP and pro-democratic ideas strongly influence the decision of native Singaporeans to leave the island state. These findings suggest that democratization and an expansion of business and technical education would be more effective in preserving economic growth than a policy of importing labor.

4) Observers question whether PAP authoritarianism itself is driving young, highly educated Singaporeans to leave their country of birth.

5) Yap Mui Teng argues that a sense of “helplessness and fear in the face of an overpowering political structure that the average person cannot hope to participate in [or] even understand” drives emigration. Such “voting with one’s feet” clearly harms Singapore’s economy.

6) In 2002, Singapore reportedly experienced the most elevated out-migration rate in the world.

7) Every year, upwards of one thousand educated Singaporeans renounce their native citizenship in favor of that of their new homelands. . .even emeritus senior minister Goh Chok Tong admitted that “at his high school reunion, it seemed all his best friends had emigrated to the United States or Australia.”

8) While the PAP went on to receive 60.1 percent of the popular vote in 2011, this majority was anything but a victory for the ruling party given its history of manipulating electoral rules to its own advantage.

9) More importantly, the opposition won its first Group Representation Constituency (GRC; a multi-seat bloc district). According to the Asia blogger for The Economist, PAP ministers suffered this electoral blow due to voters’ perceptions that the incumbent government had “lost touch” with the concerns of Singaporeans and allowed a “rapid influx of immigrants.”

10) 64.6% of Singaporean emigrant interviewees in Australia in 1989 reported that the political system was the worst aspect of living in Singapore:

“With regard to the government, the respondents were critical of the ‘limited freedom,’ ‘high-handed control of daily life,’ ‘government intolerance of opposition,’ and ‘short-sighted and forever-changing government policies’.”

11) In [the data we analyzed], a respondent who strongly opposed the ruling party and fervently endorsed democracy would be 91.7% more likely to emigrate than would an interviewee who loyally backed Lee Kuan Yew’s party and completely rejected democracy.

12) Of the forty-five Singaporean respondents in [the two immigration data sets], thirty-five said they had had little or no “ability to influence government decisions” in their country of birth. [Another] questionnaire from the forty-five respondents contained seventeen politically related “things they disliked most” about their former homeland (e.g., “the laws of the country”).

13) The political environment in Singapore seems to be the most important factor in determining emigration from Singapore.

14) In order to maximize the number of young, highly skilled Singaporean natives who remain in the country after university, Singapore’s political and educational leaders need to make significant changes.

15) The most important change the PAP should make is to open up the political system. As Sullivan and Gunasekaran suggested as early as 1994, increased public debate before decisions are made would help people feel less dissatisfied with the political conditions in Singapore and therefore less likely to leave.

16) One of the policies Yap suggested was “a more open government” to “erase the credibility gap between the government and the people.”

17) The establishment of true democracy would likely foster support for the government and the political system, as free and competitive elections often create strong national identity.

Source: “The Causes of Emigration from Singapore: How Much Is Still Political?” by Joel S. Fetzera & Brandon Alexander Millan (2015)

PDF Link: Taylor and Francis

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Joel S. Fetzer is a Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University. Immigration Politics is one of his academic interest areas.

Brandon Alexander Millan is an independent scholar from the Political Science Department of Santa Monica College.

Land of Hope, Junying Kirk



Part of the Land of Hope Blog Tour! (5 – 25 October 2012)

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I interviewed the very talented and cultured Junying Kirk almost a year ago.

Land of Hope is the third and final novel in Junying’s Journey to the West trilogy, which was recently published.

Here’s a book blurb and excerpt!


Land of Hope [Blurb]:

Every year, millions of illegal immigrants cross borders in search of wealth, happiness and a life of ease in the Land of Hope. Some succeed. Others suffer unimaginable hardships.

When Jack Gordon, Inspector in the SCS (Serious Crime Squad) hires Pearl Zhang, a professional Chinese interpreter, they join forces to fight injustice in the corrupt underworld of international crime, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Pearl is the voice of broken dreams, translating raw, deranged, and colorful tales of those who cannot speak for themselves. As Pearl gets more and more tangled in the lives of strangers, Jack becomes a welcome diversion, complicated by the fact that both are married. Their trans-continental roller-coaster ride derails when Pearl tumbles into the sinister world of her clients, a world full of secrets, lies, and unspeakable violence — only this time, it’s directed at her.

Can she depend on Jack? Find out in this third and final book of Junying Kirk’s Journey to the West trilogy.

Land of Hope [Excerpt]:

A sudden, cracking sound from the kitchen interrupted her train of thought and made her mutter. “Shit,” came out under her breath. As if by magic, Jack appeared at the door in a flash.

“You all right?” His voice was filled with concern.

He is awfully quick on his feet, she noted, as she knelt down on the now-wet floor, sweeping up broken pieces of glass.

“I broke the vase, but it’s no big deal.” She stood up and glanced at Jack quickly before diverting her eyes, her face burning scarlet, reflections of the red roses.

Before she opened the cupboard to locate another container for the flowers, she heard Jack’s tender yet commanding whisper behind her. “Come here, Pearl.”

An electrical current shook through her as his strong arms reached out and drew her close.

Her back touched his first, before he turned her around to face him. She smelt a faint aftershave, assaulting her super-sensitive senses. His touch was so charged with an electrifying passion that her body responded with an unmistakably earthy desire. Involuntarily, and fatally, she allowed herself to fall into Jack’s inviting, enamoured embrace.

What happened next was beyond her control, as his ardent kisses showered first on her face and neck, then moved on to her mouth, which was already on fire. As soon as his lips touched hers, Pearl’s body started to tremble.

She let out a soft moan under his hot kisses and found herself responding to his fervent touch. Instinctively she pressed her body against his, willing herself to melt. The feeling of being wanted was so powerful that it overwhelmed all her other senses. In one quick movement, he picked her up and carried her towards the bedroom next door.

“Oh Jack,” was all she managed to utter.

Check out Junying’s interview with me, and the other Land of Hope blog tour stops (with Robert Pruneda on 13th October, and Andy Wood on 14th October)!

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Author Bio:


Junying Kirk grew up in the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution. A British Council scholarship led her to study English Language Teaching at Warwick University in 1988, followed by further postgraduate degrees at Glasgow and Leeds. She has worked as an academic, administrator, researcher, teacher and cultural consultant.

When she is not traveling to Courts & Police stations as a professional interpreter, she loves spending her time reading & writing books, and traveling the world. Her ‘Journey to the West’ trilogy, ‘The Same Moon’, ‘Trials of Life’ and ‘Land of Hope’ have been published on Amazon.UK, Amazon.Com and Smashwords. She lives in Birmingham, UK with her English husband.