SINGAPORE: The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) has released an Issues Paper to ramp up its public engagement on Singapore’s population challenges going forward.
The paper, which is available online, aims to help Singaporeans understand the choices and trade-offs the country has to make.
NPTD said it’s important that Singaporeans develop a shared understanding of these issues, which can go towards finding the right balance to build a sustainable population.
Director of Policy & Planning at National Population & Talent Division, Ngiam Siew Ying, said: “We are engaging the public extensively this year to hear their views, because we think it’s an important issue that affects all of us. We have to look at the issue comprehensively, to achieve a population that is strong and cohesive, living in a good quality environment, with an economy that provides for good jobs and opportunities for all of us.”
Labour economist Associate Professor Randolph Tan, head of UniSIM Business Programme, said the release of the Issues Paper is timely.
“It’s good that we’re getting this process of public consultation about population policy started now. But I don’t think the public should be hasty in trying to come to a determination on what policies we should fix, until we have actually gone through a whole process of analysing the different possible scenarios. That could be a few years down the road, but it’s not too early to start now,” he said.
The paper is part of an ongoing consultation as NPTD prepares a White Paper on Population, scheduled for release at the end of the year.
The NPTD paper, entitled “Our Population, Our Future”, lays out Singapore’s demographic challenges in the face of declining birth rates, a shrinking workforce, and an ageing population.
As at December 2011,
- Singapore had 3.27 million Singapore citizens (SCs), and
- 0.54 million Permanent Residents (PRs).
- Together, they made up the resident population of 3.81 million.
Singapore also had
- a non-resident population of 1.46 million who are working, studying or living in Singapore on a non-permanent basis.
Singapore’s total population was 5.26 million as at December 2011.
Of the non-resident population,
- the majority (46 per cent) are work permit holders (excluding foreign domestic workers) and
- 14 per cent are foreign domestic workers.
The others are:
- dependants of citizens and PRs as well as work pass holders (15 per cent);
- students (6 per cent);
- Employment Pass holders (12 per cent);
- S Pass holders (8 per cent).
- 43 per cent of foreign manpower work in services while
- 30 per cent work in construction.
- Manufacturing takes 27 per cent and
- a minority 0.4 per cent work in other sectors.
The paper spells out the future implications of a shrinking and ageing workforce – fewer working people to support every elderly person; a less vibrant, less innovative economy; and eventually, a hollowing out of the population as young people leave for more exciting cities.
Associate Professor Randolph Tan said: “One of the things that we’ve learnt about demographic projections this far into the future is that they’re notoriously unreliable. In fact over the last 15 years or so, Singapore and Hong Kong have had a remarkably similar experience in this regard. Total fertility rate has actually gone up in times of economic downturns, and has gone down when there is strong economic revival.
“You can’t actually say that this is stylised fact that you can apply to all countries, but on a case-by-case basis, economists have actually observed that there is a counter-cyclical attribute between the total fertility rate and the economic growth cycle.”
It’s also possible that high immigration is depressing the fertility rate, Professor Tan said, so future population studies could look at the relationship between the two.
- are reviewing existing policies to encourage more Singaporeans to get married and have children.
- The authorities are also looking at the number of new citizens Singapore takes in,
- as well as the make-up of its non-resident workforce to support its needs.
Experts said there is a key difference between meeting short-term economic needs like manpower and answering Singapore’s demographic challenges.
Professor Tan said: “Short-term economic priorities have to do with, for instance, the manpower shortages that we meet at a time when we need to take advantage of certain growth opportunities.
“Long-term demographic challenges have to do with whether you are actually setting up families that could give rise to a nurturing environment, so that you don’t necessarily get a productive workforce out of it immediately, but at least you get a healthy, happy nation out of it.”
The discussion continues as Singapore reaches a demographic turning point. More than 900,000 post-war baby boomers will hit 65 – the retirement age – from this year onward. That’s over a quarter of the current citizen population.
NPTD is seeking public feedback through its newly launched population website at http://www.population.sg.
The public can also send their feedback by
fax: 6325-3240, or post.
The mailing address is:
The National Population and Talent Division,
Prime Minister’s Office, 5 Maxwell Road #13-00
Tower Block MND Complex, Singapore 069110
The consultation runs till 31 October 2012.
Link : Govt seeks public views on population challenges
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