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December 17, 2006

Richard Florida

Creative Singapore

« Home is where the art is | Main | Human capital and the creative class »

Singapore has been investing in arts, architecture, and culture and even moving some on the tolerance front in its efforts to build a Creative Economy. Here are excerpts of an interesting talk on "Singapore: Place or Nation? The Implications for Economy, State and Identity" by Linda Lim, Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.

"Richard Florida identified "technology, talent and tolerance" as the characteristics of "cool cities" which attract creative young people whose work then contributes to economic growth. One of Florida's indicators of "tolerance" was a tolerance for homosexuals, who some argue are disproportionately represented among the creative class. It is this supposed correlation of gay-ness with economic growth and dynamic cities that led to the Singapore government revealing that there are gays in the senior levels of government, and to its promotion of so-called "Pink Dollar" tourism (remember that?), which I read about on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. "Tolerance" in this case was apparently motivated by the prospect of economic gain for the place, rather than as a value in its own right for the nation..."

"25% or more of Singapore's workforce today consists of foreign workers...The Singapore government's policy on "foreign talent" ... resembles the U.S. policy of giving H1B visas and permanent residence more readily to immigrants with unique skills that can enhance the nation's economic growth and technological development. ...The influx of foreign talent, in Singapore as in the U.S., shifts the nation's comparative advantage towards more highly-skilled activities, and is thus complementary, as well as competitive, with local talent..."

"Immigrants form a much larger proportion of the labor force in Singapore than in the U.S., and are particularly highly represented at upper echelons, for example, among university faculty who groom our next generation's elite. ... Further, rightly or wrongly, there is a perception among some native-born Singaporeans that foreign talent receives favorable treatment from the government and private sector employers, relegating the native-born to "second-class citizen" status in their own country..."

"To the extent that such a cosmopolitan elite includes "foreign talent", we may even end up with a situation where Singaporean "heartlanders", relatively immobile in the global job market in part because they lack the linguistic and cultural tools to participate in it, are ruled by "foreign talent" which developed those tools in other places and nations, while members of the Singapore-born cosmopolitan elite, raised to be "global", depart for foreign shores."

A transcript of the whole talk is here.

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