Younger Singaporeans want a Digital Nomad Lifestyle, but worried about losing the freedom to move abroad


A new study revealed that seven in 10 Singaporeans (69 per cent) want to work remotely to travel the world, especially younger Singaporeans – 74 per cent of 15 to 34 year-olds. However, they are worried about which countries will continue to welcome them.

This is according to a survey released today by online money transfer service TransferWise[1], which surveyed more than 1,000 Singaporean citizens and PRs to understand Singaporeans’ attitudes to migration, the future of work, and what a more open world looks like for future generations.

Top countries of choice for long-term migration include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom (in order of preference). In a separate study by IDP Singapore, students favour Australia as the top education destination, followed closely by the UK and the United States.

However, more than half of Singaporeans (52 per cent) are worried about losing the freedom to move abroad due to the evolving geopolitical climate, a concern that particularly resonates with millennials (65 per cent of 20 to 24 year-olds and 63 per cent of 30 to 34 year-olds indicated worry).

TransferWise Head of Banking, Lukas May said, “As a cosmopolitan hub, Singapore recognises that lives and ideas today are more global than ever before. More Singaporeans, especially the younger generation, are seeking experiences around the world for personal and professional growth. However, our research also shows that people are feeling anxiety about how they can live their life – and move their money – without being held back by physical borders.

“At TransferWise, we believe in an open world – that money and ideas moving around the world spurs economies and innovation.”

The survey revealed that while a significant majority (85 per cent) of Singaporeans would like to live outside of Singapore, they would not like to stay away from home for long. Only 18 per cent of Singaporeans want to move abroad for good, while half (50 per cent) of Singaporeans want to live abroad for up to five years.

Those polled in the healthcare industry ranked highest (92 per cent) in terms of desire to move abroad, while Singaporeans in the technology (91 per cent) and manufacturing industries followed (88 per cent). Those working in the government had the least desire to move abroad (78 per cent).

This aligns with the Government’s vision of internationalising Singapore businesses, signalled by the launch of new agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG) early this year.[2] With Singaporeans across industries vying to seek experiences abroad, this international exposure will better facilitate the competitiveness of local industries and the introduction of new innovations.

However several concerns still remain for the increasingly cosmopolitan Singaporean: Two-thirds (60 per cent) of respondents say they are worried about the loss of Singaporean talent with increasing migration, while more than half (52 per cent) note their inability to part with their loved ones as a major obstacle to migration – with more women (58 per cent) citing this reason than men (45 per cent).

Lukas added, “Singaporeans are optimistic about a well-connected world as their vision of the future. As technology continues to make the global movement of people, money and ideas easier, we expect the future landscape of work and life will accelerate in this direction of a more open world.”

With more Singaporeans moving abroad, a survey commissioned by TransferWise[3] also found that the second highest reason for overseas money transfers is for Singaporeans to support their friends and family living overseas, just behind the top reason of travel.

International migration is at an all-time high with more than 250 million migrant workers across the globe[4], and a growing number of Singaporeans living and working out of the country.[5]

[1] Commissioned by TransferWise, an online survey of more than 1,000 Singaporean citizens and PRs was undertaken by research agency Toluna in June 2018.

[2] Enterprise Singapore. 2018

[3] Commissioned by TransferWise, an online survey of more than 1,000 people was undertaken by research agency Toluna in December 2017.

[4] World Bank, Migration and Remittances Factbook 2016

[5] Origins and Destinations of the World’s Migrants, 1990-2017. Pew Research Center, 2018