Singapore should export as much top talent as it imports

SINGAPORE: As the global race for talent heats up, much has been said about the need to attract the best and the brightest to Singapore.

Singapore must expect to see greater contestation and fragmentation in the global economy, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in his Budget 2023 speech on Feb 14. Observers speaking to CNA also said Singaporeans must be ready to seize new growth opportunities overseas.

Former actor James Lye’s appointment as global head of international banking at Standard Chartered in October 2022 made headlines, with some commenting online that local talent taking up global roles seem rare.

There are Singaporeans flying the national flag high in multinational corporations. In 2019, Johnson & Johnson appointed Rowena Yeo, their first non-American chief technology officer. In 2020, food and beverage giant PepsiCo hired Tan Wern-Yuen as CEO of PepsiCo APAC. In 2021, Shou Zi Chew was named TikTok CEO.

But are these exceptions rather than the norm? The 2022 AmCham Singapore Manpower survey found that while Singaporeans make up more than half of the senior-level workforce in 60 percent of the organizations surveyed, the proportion of Singaporeans holding regional leadership roles have remained stagnant over the last year.

For a world-class business hub used to punching above its weight and always working to import top global talent, how can we also export more Singapore talent to the world stage?

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