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Singapore - Young Country, Mature Economy

A small nation state located off the coast of the southern tip of Malaysia, Singapore is barely three times the size of Washington D.C., has a population of 4.6 million, and enjoys one of the most highly developed and successful free-market economies in the region. Its $49,800 (U.S.) per capita GDP is the 7th largest in the world and 9 percent higher than that of the United States. 

Though Leonard Yeow, managing partner of The Eximius Group, an MRINetwork Worldwide office based in Singapore, says it is a free market that many in the West might not fully recognize. “Singapore is more fairly described as a social democracy.” 

A relatively young country, Singapore gained independence from the Malaysian Federation in 1965. In 1966 it changed a number of its immigration laws to help establish its identity as a sovereign state. 

Part of that policy was to keep the low-skilled migrant workers as a transient workforce. Workers are unable to bring family, gain citizenship or change jobs once in Singapore. If the economy of Singapore were to deteriorate, the government even retains the right to repatriate them. Skilled workers, however, are essentially given the keys to the kingdom, with virtually every right that a citizen would have, except voting. 

“Most Westerners don’t think about picking up their families and moving to a small island in the middle of the Asian Pacific. An essential part of recruiting candidates here is inviting them to come with their family, and take the tour,” says Yeow. “When they discover our quality of life here, it often seals the deal.”  

The professional industries currently driving Singapore include information technology and biotechnology. The industry that most likely defines Singapore, however, is education. 

“With some of the leading universities in the region, Singapore has become a popular choice to obtain an MBA,” says Yeow. Because of the island’s reputation for superior education, its citizens too have gained special favor in the South Asian region. 

“Companies in China will often specify they want a Singaporean for positions like CFO that require specifically rigorous education,” says Yeow. 

“Being such a small country, a stone’s throw from mega-populations like China and India, could make us feel insignificant,” notes Yeow. “Singapore has managed to carve out a niche though, and has built an international reputation with corporations.”