At a media interview at San Francisco yesterday (Feb 17), Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong claimed that salaries is not a main priority for Singaporean engineers who chose to work overseas. Lee Hsien Loong said he believed that they will only return to Singapore when the country can offer the same job demands they get when they are overseas.

“It’s not just a matter of pay or having a job – they can find jobs. But to have the same challenge, same excitement, the same kind of technical demand on the person, which makes him feel he is stretching the envelope and doing something meaningful. And we need to work at that. We need companies who can absorb them – engineering companies, companies which put engineering at the core of their business.”

The Prime Minister is trying lure overseas Singaporeans back to the country and even aspired the city state to emulate the next high-tech US city, Silicon Valley. However, engineering positions in Singapore are lowly paid, with salaries fetching below financial professionals. Engineering salaries took a big hit when Singapore imported an influx of cheap foreign labour from third world countries like Philippines, China and India.

Singapore clock the longest working hours in the world at 2,389.4 hours a year in 2015, exceeding Japan, Taiwan and Hongkong. As a result, the country also sees the lowest birth rate in the world at 1.25, with Japan the second-lowest at 1.42. Most Singaporeans who work overseas are attracted by relatively higher purchasing power and better work-life balance offered.