A constructivist grounded theory approach to understanding mid-level qualified Filipino SIE's experiences living and working in Singapore

  • Judy Emily

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


    This research is a qualitative study using in-depth interviews to explore the personal experiences of Self-Initiated Expatriates (SIEs) from the Philippines in mid-level jobs in Singapore to understand their goal setting and goal striving endeavours. Data were collected following the Constructivist Grounded Theory Methodology to explore the factors that influenced SIEs’ motivations, in-country adjustments and future aspirations. Findings were coded to identify emerging themes towards developing theory about their lived experiences. All twenty Filipinos interviewed were already working in Singapore, in mid-level jobs such as customer services, administration, retail, food and beverage businesses, IT and engineering. The use of constant comparative analysis of the data generated, led to an emergent framework of understanding of SIE goal setting and goal striving initiatives to sustain expatriation. Findings were then organised into SIE’s Personal Factors, the External Barriers faced, and the unique Opportunities provided in the host country. Personal factors that impact their expatriation included educational background, skills, family factors and personal preferences. Barriers that threaten expatriation included host country immigration regulations, ceilings to career progression, cultural differences and local xenophobia. Opportunities for personal growth, climbing the economic ladder and a global career became possible through overseas work experiences, networking, establishing elaborate plans and maintaining the readiness to take up new ventures. The responses of the 20 participants could be classified into three groups. The first group are those who wanted to remain in Singapore. Labelled as “The Believers”, these are the ones who kept on trying for permanent residency with the hope that they may one day be lucky enough to get it. The second group labelled as “The Pragmatics” are those who wanted to return home as they have family members were unable to or do not want to come and live in Singapore. The third group were labelled as “The Dreamers” as they are those who look for opportunities to continue to more developed countries which they perceive to pay even better, and which allow them to bring their families to live with them there. The emergent framework provided a way of understanding how goals change during the expatriation journey, revealing how the SIEs are flexible to forge new goals and how they resort to various mechanisms to prolong their expatriation in Singapore. These mechanisms include leveraging on social networks as a resource to ensure continued employment in the host country; and mechanisms to ease adjustments. Social networks also offer information on alternate employment available in third countries to sustain their expatriation, indicating that some of them will move on when opportunities avail there. Peer pressure plays a positive role to push SIEs into continued overseas work. The framework was able to outline the micro, meso and macro influences on SIE goal setting and goal striving for their individual career development. At the micro individual level, the participants found their job in Singapore interesting. They were able to learn and employ new technologies for their work and were able to keep abreast with latest practices in their respective industry. At the meso working environment level, the participants were found to work hard and work smart to sustain their job and expatriation. Their work requires special skills and talent, but it can also be very demanding and could at times become repetitive work. The participants felt that they have little control and influence over their environment. They had no influence over the work visa renewals to sustain their continued expatriation. At the macro level, the participants revealed a keen awareness of competition amongst foreigners and locals for the jobs that they are doing, and this caused them to put in effort to perform on the job. They face barriers in the host country in terms of bringing immediate families to accompany them during the period of their expatriation to Singapore. The emergent framework could serve as a predictive road map to guide regulators and assist in devising suitable policies and employment packages that would achieve organisational goals for Singapore companies while balancing Singapore’s unique situation and meeting expatriate’s reasonable expectations such as those related to their career and the management of their family life. The findings are helpful for human resources practitioners to introduce measures that will help their companies to motivate and retain SIE workforce to achieve greater productivity and other company goals. The recommendations are for further qualitative research in the following areas: (1) the impact of separated families for the model of employing individual SIEs; (2) the impact of technology on managing remote family relationships; (3) comparison study on the perception of mid-level professional SIEs from different Southeast Asian countries; and (4) a comprehensive study on the host country as a case study of balancing national and economic needs with the expatriate holistic needs as a person.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMargaret Patrickson (Supervisor) & Michael Walsh (Supervisor)

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