I have a prediction. My prediction is that in a couple of years, the expatriates (from China, India, US etc…) will rule Singapore. They will increasing take on more leadership roles of CEOs, directors, heads of organizations, award winners etc… If you observe closely, it is already happening now. This year’s top PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam) student is a China National. Most of the deans list students and first class honours students in the local universities are foreigners and more and more CEOs, even that of government link corporations are expats. The top players in our National teams are expats.
As a Singaporean, I am not complaining. I think that in a meritocratic society like Singapore, it is only fair that the very best get rewarded, no matter their race, religion or nationality. Like Lee Kwan Yew said, I rather these talented and driven people be on our team contributing to our nation than against us from their home country. The question I have been asking is, ‘why are the expats beating the crap out of Singaporeans?’ What I noticed is that these expats have a very important quality that many Singaporeans (especially the new Y generation lack). It is a quality that our grandfathers and great-grandfathers (who came from distant lands) had that turned Singapore from a fishing village to the third richest country in the world (according to GDP per capita). Unfortunately, I fear this quality is soon disappearing from the new generation of Singaporeans. This youth development quality is the HUNGER FOR SUCCESS and the FIGHTING SPIRIT!!!
Expats who come here today have the same tremendous HUNGER for success that our grandfathers had. They are willing to sacrifice, work hard and pay the price to succeed. They also believe that no one owes them a living and they have to work hard for themselves. They also bring with them the humility and willingness to learn. Take the case of Qui Biqing, the girl from Qifa Primary school who topped the whole of Singapore in last year’s PSLE with a score of 290. When she came to Singapore 3 years ago from China, she could hardly speak a word of English and didn’t even understand what a thermometer was. Although she was 10 years old, MOE recommended she start at Primary 2 because of her lack of English proficiency. After appealing, she managed to start in Primary 3. While most Singaporeans have a head start of learning English at pre-school at the age of 3-4 years old, she only started at age 10. Despite this handicapped, she had the drive to read continuously and practice her speaking and writing skills, eventually scoring an A-star in English!
This hunger and drive can also be seen in the workforce. I hate to say this but in a way, I sometimes think expats create more value than locals. Expats are willing to work long hours, go the extra mile, are fiercely loyal to you and don’t complain so much. They also come alot more qualified and do not ask the moon for the remuneration. Recently, I placed an ad for a marketing executive. Out of 100+ resumes, more than 60% came from expats. While locals fresh grads are asking for $2,500+ per month, I have expats with masters degrees from good universities willing to get less than $2,000! They know that if they can come in and learn and work hard, they will eventually climb up and earn alot more. They are willing to invest in themselves, pay the price for future rewards. Sometimes I wonder how some of the locals are going to compete with this. Of course, this is just a generalization. There ARE definitely some Singaporeans who create lots of value and show fighting spirit.
Unfortunately, I have found that more and more young Singaporeans lack this hunger for success. Instead, they like to complain, blame circumstances and wait for others to push them. Some hold on to the attitude that the world owes them a living. I shake my head when I see local kids nowadays complain that they don’t have the latest handphones, branded clothes and games. While I acknowledge that the kids of today are much smarter and well informed than I was at their age (my 4 year old daughter can use my Macbook computer and my iphone), I find that they lack the resilience and tenacity they need to survive in the new economy. Some kids nowadays tend to give up easily once they find that things get tough and demand instant gratification. When they have to work first to get rewards later, many tend to lack the patience to follow through.
So, how did this happen? Why is our nation of hardworking, hungry fighters slowly becoming a nation of complaining softies? I think the problem is that life in Singapore has been too good and comfortable. Kids today have never seen hunger, poverty, war and disasters. What makes it worse is that parents nowadays give kids everything they want and over protect them from hardship and failure. Parents often ask me why their kids lack the motivation to study and excel. My answer to them is because they already have everything! Giving someone everything they want is the best way to kill their motivation. What reason is there for them to fight to become the best when they are already given the best from their parents without having to earn it? It reminds me of the cartoon movie MADAGASCAR where Alex the Lion and his animal friends were born and raised in the Central Park Zoo. They were well taken care of and provided with processed food and an artificial jungle. When they escaped to Africa, they found that they could barely survive in the wild with the other animals because they had lots their instincts to fight and hunt for food. They could only dance and sing.
I see the same thing in the hundreds of youth activity, seminars, training programmes and youth programs I conduct. I see increasing more and more expats attending my Wealth Academy and Patterns of Excellence programme in Singapore. Not surprisingly, they are always the first to grab the microphone to answer and ask questions. While many of the locals come in late and sit at the back. The expats (especially those from India and China) always sit at the front, take notes ferociously and stay back way after the programme is over to ask questions. I feel ashamed sometimes when I ask for volunteers to ask questions, and the Singaporeans keep quiet, while the foreigners fight for the opportunity. For my “I Am Gifted, So Are You!’ programme for students, I have the privileged to travel and conduct it in seven countries (Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia etc…) and see all students from all over. Is there a big difference in their attitude and behaviour? You bet!
Again, I feel really sad that in Singapore, most students who come are usually forced by their parents to come and improve themselves, Some parents even bribe them with computer games and new handphones to attend. During the course, some adopt the ‘I know everything’ attitude and lack the interest to succeed until I kick their butts. It is so different when I go to Malaysia, Indonesia and once in India. The kids there ask their parents to send them to my programme. They clap and cheer enthusiastically when the teachers enter the room and participate so willingly when lessons are on. I still scratch my head and wonder what happened to my fellow Singaporeans to this day.
So mark my words, unless the new generation of Singaporeans wake up and get out of their happy over protected bubble and start fighting for their future, the expats (like our great grandfathers) will soon be the rulers of the country. At the rate at which talented and hungry expats are climbing up , our future prime minister may be an Indian or China PR or may even an Ang Moh!