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Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore

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Immigration contributes 20,000 to 25,000 new citizens annually, whereas citizen births average 32,200 annually in the past decade. With an ageing population and a declining birth rate, as our former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said, our choice is to take in immigrants. The Population White Paper, a controversial paper released by the Singapore government in 2013, states that the projected population could grow up to 6.9 million Singapore citizens and permanent residents in 2030. There are two main aspects of reasons as to why Singapore should continue to be open to immigrants for population growth — politically and economically. Immigrants will support the People’s Action Party (PAP) if they manage to apply for a Singapore citizen and can help improve productivity and enlarge our workforce.

Singapore government incentivizes non-residents on work visas and progressively gets them to become a Permanent Resident. In order for immigrants to eventually choose to become Singapore citizens, our government highly subsidizes citizens in healthcare and housing. They will also get to pay less tax and qualify for more general welfare schemes. This way, PAP will gain more support from these immigrants and continue ruling the country.

Singaporeans have a very low total fertility rate of 1.2, which means that there is only an average of 1.2 children per woman. This is far from the replacement rate of 2.1 despite government schemes to encourage parenthood such as offering incentives. Even if the replacement is miraculously met, there will not be economic growth given the same amount of workforce. To worsen the situation of our shrinking workforce, the baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are giving rise to the ageing population. Singapore’s percentage of seniors aged 65 and above is projected to double up to 27 percent by 2030, while the percentage of juniors aged 15 and below will decrease to 10.8 percent. There were suggestions of offering older workers more job opportunity. However, the productivity will decrease and is not an effective solution. Based on our current citizen population growth, the economic growth is expected to be less than half the 8% average rate of the past 50 years. Hence, immigration is needed to have a larger workforce in Singapore with improved productivity. Moreover, the increased Gross Domestic Product per person can benefit the competitiveness of our economy and broaden tax base can be put into use.

Our government looks at both quantity and quality which means that they will attract the best foreign talents to drive our economy. The Population White Paper projects that about two in three residents will be Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs). However, Singapore does not have enough people in certain areas like computer science so we need support from foreign talents. This will be able to help boost Singapore’s economy by making use of these highly-skilled migrants. The greater availability of workers enables companies to earn higher returns on capital and increase investments. Thus, new companies emerge and existing ones expand, contributing to more job creation and higher economic growth. Singapore can also tap into the knowledge and connections of its pool of immigrants to increase trade and investment overseas, especially with large Asian markets. Low-skilled migrants can also take up manual jobs so that locals can take up more complex occupations that require communication and language skills where they have comparative advantages. Not only that, low-skilled migrant workers can look after children so more high skilled local women can join the labor force and work for longer hours.

Immigration indeed brings about Singapore countless benefits, but everything has a downside to it. With an increasing number of immigrants contributing to our population, it raises Singaporeans’ discontent. More competition will be found around places with immigrants and locals tend to treat them with a different perspective since we do not share the same culture. For example, about 4000 people protested when the Population White Paper was first released in 2011.

All in all, immigration seems to be the best solution that benefits the economy the most despite some dissatisfaction it may cause. The big picture is after all what the government is looking after. Thus, for the interests of our small red dot, Singapore’s population has to be topped up adequately, qualitatively and quantitatively.

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