What's stopping us from working abroad

What's stopping us from working abroad

SINGAPORE - I am a human resource practitioner in a multinational company, where working abroad is a common way to bridge skill gaps and develop talent ("Reluctance to work abroad limits us: PM"; Wednesday).

To get to senior leadership positions in my company, one is expected to have spent time working overseas, as this broadens one's horizons in a way that cannot be achieved by working only in one's home country.

But in Singapore, only a small number of people are willing to work abroad, compared to those from neighbouring countries like Malaysia or the Philippines.

The reasons commonly given are:

- The unwillingness of dual-career couples to reach a compromise. Women are often expected to give up their jobs and follow their husbands when they get posted abroad;

- Parents' worry that their children will be unable to cope with the rigours of our education system when they return home, as the children often need to repeat a year in school after spending some time abroad;

- The belief that childcare is best outsourced to grandparents and not to professionals, which is contrary to the thinking in many First World countries;

- Our over-reliance on maids, leading to a generation that can no longer cook, clean or fend for themselves while abroad;

- The fear of losing out in the rat race if one were to spend a prolonged period overseas; and

- The need to care for aged parents or relatives, partly stemming from our social system where many older people still rely on their children for their health-care needs.

I am not advocating a welfare state, but I am heartened by the Government's shift towards more inclusive health care for the elderly.

I wonder if the Government is prepared to examine the root causes behind our reluctance to work abroad. For Singapore to remain one of the world's most business-friendly and competitive economies, we need to challenge this mindset.

Joyce Loh (Ms)

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