Interesting (and disheartening) to see such things happening in Singapore of all places. These are seen as doyens of global centres where capital and labor move freely. We all want to emulate these centres be it a country or a city. However, all these global centres are increasingly sending opposite signals. Post-Brexit, we have signals from Singapore where it is becoming difficult for other Asians to get houses on rentals:
Last year, when Darius Cheung, co-founder of property search portal, wanted to rent a house in Singapore, he met with many reluctant real estate agents. Many of them seemed interested at first, but would turn him down later. He found out why when one realtor gave him a rather shocking response: “Sorry your wife is Indian, [the] landlord won’t rent to you.”
Indians who have spent some time in the city-state know that they aren’t the first choice as tenants for many landlords. Chinese people from the mainland China have it even worse: they are said to be least preferred by Singapore’s property owners. That was evident from a quick search with the keywords “No Indians, no PRC [People’s Republic of China]” on two property websites. Gumtree.sgturned up 29 announcements with these words and PropertyGuru showed 63.
On the face of it, this would seem to be evidence of racial disharmony in a country where the government imposes harsh penalty on instances of racial prejudice. But many see the discrimination in the rental market as an expression of the clash between the old and the new – the discomfort of the country’s long-time citizens with the influx of foreigners in the multi-ethnic wealthy country.
“There is discrimination against all South Asians, even though the listings often specify ‘No Indians’” said Cheung, whose search engine 99.co in July introduced a new filter – All-Races-Welcome – as part of its Regardless of Race campaign. This drive aims to encourage agents and landlords in Singapore to indicate that their rental listings are open to all, regardless of the “ethnicity, background or nationality” of potential tenants.
In Singapore, “Indians” is a catch-all term for all those perceived to be of South Asian descent. For instance, a BBC report in May 2014 described how an immigrant of Sri Lankan descent was rejected outright by several landlords for being “Indian” during his search for a house in the city-state.
The prejudice against Indian tenants may spring from the stereotype that Indians are unsanitary and leave the rented properties in a poor state. For instance, in July, The Independent, an online news platform in Singapore, reported that a departing Indian family left behind a dirty home, besides defaulting on the rent and other bills.
How we keep moving from integrating forces to contradicting forces…