During the parliamentary debate on population held yesterday, Singapore’s Members of Parliament (MP) discussed their concerns regarding endorsing the White Paper on Population. The Paper, which was released last week, projects that Singapore’s population may rise to the 6.5 – 6.9 million bracket within the next 17 years. However, in the same swoop, the proportion of Singaporeans to the total number of inhabitants is set to fall from 62% to 55%, hence diluting the citizen core.
Concerned MPs raised questions of whether the quality of life for Singaporeans will be improved if this Paper is endorsed. They also raised the flag against eroding Singapore’s identity as a nation if only 55% of its population is made up of citizens 17 years down the road.
Commenting on the debate, Ms. Christine Lim, General Manager of Singapore company formation specialist Rikvin, said, “This debate harkens back to growing criticism from citizens and business communities that Singapore has become an increasingly costly place to live in and do business and that something has to change. This is a delicate issue. On one hand, there is an urgency to have a population that naturally replenishes itself. On the other, there is a necessity to meet the needs of the business community as they adjust to the national economic restructuring goals.”
THE NEED TO MAINTAIN ELDERLY SUPPORT RATIO
According to a report on Business Times titled “Chee Hean Explains Case for Immigrants,” Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean explained that it is necessary to mitigate the social and economic effects of having an aged population by “taking in foreigners.”
The White Paper plays a pivotal part in our history as a nation, and not just an economy. It is good to have diversity, and have talented people to start a Singapore company or, via the Singapore work visa, contribute meaningfully to our society.
At the same time, the time has come to listen in, discuss and negotiate other markers for success, what is sustainable and how we pursue happiness and harmony as a nation. Ultimately, what we choose now will have a bearing on our PMETs, identity and economy, two decades down the road or more.”
This is because, by 2016, 14% of Singapore’s population will be aged 65 years and above. By 2020, its working population will shrink, setting the ratio of working persons to retirees to 5.9. A decade later, the ratio will dip to 2.1. In a bid to meet the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average ratio 4, Singapore will have no other option but to import work permit holders – the largest group of non-resident foreigners in Singapore – to “provide services that Singaporeans need but do not want to do.”
MORE THAN A HANDFUL OF CHALLENGES
Analysis by Rikvin shows that Singapore has a set of challenges to deal with as it pursues its population goals. On one hand, it aims to raise the proportion of local PMETs in its workforce within the next 17 years. At the same time, and as Singapore moves towards higher-value added activities, the number of local non-PMETs to support PMET jobs will decline. To support economic activities, Singapore must somehow supply non-PMETs at rates that are affordable to businesses.
“However, due to the increasingly high cost of living in Singapore, many citizens cannot afford to take up non-PMET jobs and find it in their interest to upgrade their skills, so as to enjoy a more comfortable life. However, the means to move up the ladder via skills upgrading may not be in the grasp of everyone who wishes so. Some others, who are more mobile and skilled, create more comfortable lives for themselves by venturing overseas” explained Ms. Lim.
According to data from the Migration Policy Institute, Singapore has been experiencing brain drain and losing its own talent to other greener pastures. As of June 2011, approximately 192,300 Singaporeans have migrated from the country. In 2010, an average of 1,000 others have applied for the “Certificate of No Criminal Conviction” per month to get permanent residence abroad.
“The White Paper plays a pivotal part in our history as a nation, and not just an economy. It is good to have diversity, and have talented people to start a Singapore company or, via the Singapore work visa, contribute meaningfully to our society. At the same time, the time has come to listen in, discuss and negotiate other markers for success, what is sustainable and how we pursue happiness and harmony as a nation. Ultimately, what we choose now will have a bearing on our PMETs, identity and economy, two decades down the road or more,” affirmed Ms. Lim.