Owing to declining fertility rate, Singapore government recognise that her people will not maintain nor increase her population by themselves. Singapore needs to therefore attract more immigrants into the country. In her outreach efforts to talented immigrants that come from diverse backgrounds, the Singapore government has tailored programmes to meeting the immigrants’ specific needs and helping them to be aware of the different aspects of Singaporean’s way of life.
For instances, the government leverages on existing programmes by the People’s Association and foreign support groups’ associations like American Association Singapore to reach out to the new residents (DPM Wong KS, Aug 2006), Singapore Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Mr Wong Kan Seng, also Minister in charge of Population issues, quoted Singapore government surveys to show that while most Singaporeans agree that foreign talents have and can contribute to her continued success, many of them tend to still view immigrants with some distrust and discomfort.
He attributed such misgivings to the cultural differences and the concern about foreigners competing for local jobs. Sherif & Sherif (1969) suggested in his realistic group conflict theory that when two groups are in competition for scarce resources, the potential success of one group threatens the well-being of the other, resulting in negative outgroup attitudes. The conflict of interest between Singaporeans and talented immigrants in competing for jobs may lead to Singaporean’s discrimination and prejudice against immigrants.
This theory premises on the perception of competition and not on whether the actual competition over resource does exist. Drawn on this theory, the Instrumental Model of Group Conflict (Esses, et al, 1998) can help to explain the “We” versus “They” mindset. The instrumental model of group conflict suggests that Singaporean’s perceived competition for job (resources), and the Singapore government’s attempts to remove this competition, are important determinants of intergroup attitudes and behaviours.
The Citizenship and Population Unit (CPU) in Singapore Prime Minister’s Office has been set up to coordinate and drive all relevant government agencies’ efforts pertaining to immigration issues. By doing so, the Singapore Government recognise that the dynamic interplay of the local community and the immigrant acculturation orientation may produce consensual, problematic or conflicting relational outcomes between Singaporean and the foreign immigrants as postulated in the interactive acculturation model framework (Richard et al, 1996).
One of the key functions of CPU is to attract foreigners to study, work and live in Singapore, with interested and suitable immigrants being encouraged to sink roots permanently. DPM Wong had shared in his interview on August 2006 that the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its policy review would facilitate foreign graduates and adults who meet the relevant requirements and can afford to stay on in Singapore at their own expense to spend more time looking for a job. This involved the extension of 6 month social visit pass for talented immigrants.