The Singapore River. A points-based system for allowing in expats is set to kick in next year. Image Credit: AFP

Singapore wants to lure more top talent to its shores, joining Germany and the UK in the contest for cosmopolitan professionals.

“In this global contest for talent, Singapore cannot afford to be creamed off, or left behind,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his annual National Day Rally address on Sunday. “This is an age where talent makes all the difference to a nation’s success,” he said, adding details will be released soon.

The business-friendly Southeast Asian city has long been a magnet for international talent and the rich. But worries among locals about the large numbers of foreigners and stringent Covid rules led to the largest decline in white-collar expats in over a decade last year.

Meanwhile, countries including the UAE, the UK and Germany rolled out plans to attract talent. And mobile, young professionals are putting countries from Curacao to Cape Verde on their horizon.

Lee signaled that the new initiatives will especially target “sectors with good potential” beyond technology, where there are already existing plans to keep talent. He also acknowledged Singaporeans are “rightly concerned” about the large numbers of foreigners in the city.

“While we manage the overall population of foreign professionals here, we must not stop seeking out top talent who can contribute to our Singapore Story,” Lee said. “And every Singaporean will benefit from our progress and success.”

A points-based system for allowing in expats is set to kick in next year. Singapore offers permanent residency status to entrepreneurs and investors who “intend to drive their businesses and investment growth from Singapore” via a Global Investor Programme. Another plan launched in 2021 offered 500 visas for tech-related roles.