Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More Indian nationals moving here

The draw: low crime rate, family-friendly and homeland nearby

Indian national Nikhil Engineer, seen here with wife Mansi and their children Neal, four, and Rhea, one, came here to be nearer relatives in India and because Singapore is a good place to raise their children. He is on an employment pass but plans to apply for PR soon.

# Bulk of Indian nationals are work permit holders

# Number of professionals rising

# Surge in firms owned by Indian expatriates

# Boom in businesses and services catering to them

# Growth in domestic cricket league

FOREIGNERS from India now form almost a quarter of the 1.79 million foreigners and permanent residents (PRs) who currently live here.

The number of Indian nationals living and working here has now crossed the 400,000 mark, according to the Indian Embassy.

Two years ago, the number stood at around 200,000.

Although the bulk of them are work permit holders with jobs in the construction or marine sectors, a rising number are professionals, said Mr Bernard Menon, centre manager of the Migrant Workers Centre, a non-governmental organisation that provides assistance to foreign workers on employment-related issues.

Industries such as engineering, information technology and finance are among the areas where Indian nationals are making a name for themselves, said Mr Vasanth Kumar, the Indian Embassy's first secretary.

Many are also striking out on their own once they arrive here.

The Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) has seen a surge in the number of companies owned by Indian expatriates, from around 1,500 in 2006, to 3,000 today.

Said an SICCI spokesman: 'Their businesses mainly lie in information technology, finance, trading, and food and beverage.'

A boom in businesses and services catering to Indians has also resulted.

The Global Indian International School, for example, now has 4,000 students - four times the number it had five years ago. Indian nationals make up 90 per cent of its students.

In Little India, about 20 per cent more grocery shops and restaurants have popped up in the past five to 10 years to cater to growing demand, said Mr Raja-kumar Chandra, chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association.

Indian nationals are also making an impact on the playing field.

The Singapore Cricket Association said its domestic league has grown from 36 teams in 2007 to about 90 now.

Mr Dharmichand Mulewa, the association's general manager, said many of the new teams are made up of Indian expats.

However, not just the cricket league is growing. Across Singapore on weekends, stumps are as common a sight on playing fields as goal posts.

There were 1.79 million foreigners and PRs in Singapore last year, up from 1.04 million in 2000. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority does not provide a breakdown on the number of foreigners here by nationality.

However, National University of Singapore sociologist Gavin Jones, who researches population and development issues, believes Chinese and Indian nationals, as well as Malaysians, Indonesians, Filipinos and Bangladeshis, form the largest groups of foreigners and PRs here.

'Most new PRs in recent years have come from Asian countries, and it is generally accepted that the Chinese, Indians and Malaysians are prominent among these,' said Professor Jones, when asked to explain.

Indian associations such as the Indian Women's Association and SICCI told The Straits Times that Singapore is gaining popularity as a destination of choice among Indian immigrants because it offers a business- and family-friendly environment, has a low crime rate and is just a short flight from India.

A large proportion of the Indian immigrants here come from Tamil Nadu, said Mr Nikhilesh Gupta, president of the Bengali Association Singapore. Apart from proximity, language is a key reason they make tracks for Singapore.

'Tamil is an official language here, and it gives them a kind of connection to Singapore, in terms of feeling more at home,' he explained.

Some who left India for other countries have also found their way here.

Mr Nikhil Engineer, 34, who left London with his family to work in Singapore two years ago, is one such example.

He said he came here to be nearer relatives in India and because Singapore is a good place to raise his two young children.

The vice-president of product control at Credit Suisse said: 'It is the easiest place to settle down in; everything is straightforward.'

Asked if he planned to stay here permanently, he added: 'That's the plan. It would be tough to adjust to another place because Singapore tends to spoil you.'

Source: Straits Times, 20 Jul 2010

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