Singapore envies Kiwi lifestyle

Lincoln Tan
New Zealand Herald

The bait was better working hours, cheaper cars and housing – and in three weeks thousands from Singapore have registered their interest in living in New Zealand.

An Immigration New Zealand pilot project aimed at attracting Singaporean migrants has resulted in over 1000 registrations each week since it was launched last month, with 3565 potential immigrants having registered their interest in just three weeks.

Would-be migrants are told of comparatively cheaper housing, car ownership and a relaxed lifestyle – and those who registered their interest on received an email from Immigration telling them how to apply for relevant visas.

Immigration expert Paul Spoonley said the level of interest was “unexpected and fascinating”.

“I think the draw for many Singaporeans is not so much the cheaper cars or housing, but the lower-stress environment and because New Zealand offers quality education in English,” said Professor Spoonley, of Massey University.

“Singapore has a very competitive education system driven by Confucian values and what they think they will get here is a different education value system that offers a more well-rounded education for children.”

Immigration New Zealand said the pilot was aimed at working holiday visitors and students, and not skilled migrants, but Professor Spoonley said the Singaporeans who had registered were likely to be either young families with young children, or those who were semi-retired.

Immigration told Singapore media that Singaporeans were targeted because Singapore and New Zealand had long-standing and friendly relations, and that Singapore was a “good demographic match for this campaign, in terms of English language proficiency and education levels, and there’s already a strong tradition of studying overseas”.

Singapore Club Auckland president Allan Yee said most Singaporeans regarded New Zealand not so much as a study destination but an “excellent place to retire”.

“Most Singaporeans have a good retirement nest egg, and they think they will be able to get better-value housing and cars and stretch their money in New Zealand,” said Mr Yee.

“I guess New Zealand also offers cheaper university education and that could be one reason why Singaporeans want to come, but Australian universities are still more popular for them.”

Since 2001, 2978 Singaporeans have become permanent residents, but 1107, or 37 per cent, are no longer living here.

An Immigration spokesman said the agency did not yet have any information on Singaporeans who had come to New Zealand as a direct result of this pilot project, but it would be evaluated over the next few months.

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