Thursday 31 January 2013

Population White Paper - January 2013

Population could hit 6.9m by 2030
Govt says it is planning ahead to cope with projected rise in numbers
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

SINGAPORE'S population could grow to 6.9 million in 2030 as the Government moves to tackle the serious demographic double whammy of a shrinking and ageing population.

Of that, the resident population of citizens and permanent residents will likely be around 4.4 million. The core of citizens is projected to number 3.8 million, or just over half the total population.

The non-resident foreigner ranks - comprising foreign workers, expatriates and students - will make up 36 per cent of the population, up from 28 per cent now.

They are projected to number 2.5 million in 2030, up from 1.5 million now.

While unveiling this scenario in a widely anticipated Population White Paper yesterday, the Government sought to pre-empt anxieties with assurances that it is planning ahead to cope with the projected population growth and avoid "today's problem" of over-crowding and infrastructural strain.

Land has been identified for 700,000 new homes - complete with recreational areas and green spaces. More details will be out later this week.

Plans are also in place to double the rail network by 2030, and 80 per cent of households should be within 10 minutes' walking distance from an MRT station.

Even with 6.9 million people, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean emphasised yesterday, Singapore's density will be 13,000 people per sq km - considerably lower than Hong Kong's 22,000 per sq km.

He was flanked by six ministers as he laid out the Government's population road map, which he said has three components.

The first is a push to grow the Singaporean core through a $2 billion-a-year package to encourage marriage and parenthood, announced last week.

The second is to sustain the sort of dynamic economy that produces top jobs for the more highly educated citizen core.

By 2030, he noted, two-thirds of the local workforce will be in the professional, manager, engineer and technician (PMET) category, and will aspire to more highly skilled and rewarding jobs.

These, said Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin, come "when you have good companies coming here". For that reason, he noted, the doors must remain open to global talent.

The third is to maintain a high-quality living environment for Singaporeans that avoids the strain of recent years.

Commenting on the population road map on Facebook yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government's goal is to ensure that "Singapore continues thriving, for the sake of our younger generation".

The White Paper projects that the workforce will expand at 1 per cent to 2 per cent a year from now until 2020. From 2020 to 2030, it will drop to 1 per cent a year.

The bulk of the growth will be from injections of foreign manpower as Singaporean baby-boomers age and leave the workforce.

These projected growth rates are a fraction of the pace at which the workforce had expanded in the past. From 1980 to 2010, it grew at 3.3 per cent on average every year.

In fact, economists said yesterday that businesses should prepare themselves for more curbs on foreign workers to come if these new growth rates are to be adhered to.

Coupled with a hoped-for 2 to 3 per cent rise in productivity every year, the White Paper projects yearly economic growth of 3 to 5 per cent from now until 2020.

From 2020 to 2030, the projected growth rate is 2 to 3 per cent annually - "not scintillating, but not sedentary", said Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran.

Asked what message he had for Singaporeans who might be uncomfortable with the population projections, DPM Teo said the Government is trying to find "the appropriate balance" between its conflicting national priorities.

There are no simple solutions, he said, and he expects different views and "a full debate" when he seeks Parliament's endorsement next week.



Our goal is simple: to ensure Singapore continues thriving, for the sake of our younger generation. But our population challenges are difficult and complex. It is not just the headline number which matters, but getting the right mix of citizens and PRs, creating exciting opportunities for our people, and building a city that offers a high quality of life and a nation that is the best home for all of us. Parliament will be debating the White Paper next week. Do read the White Paper to understand what is at stake.

PM Lee Hsien Loong

Enough land for 700,000 more homes
Population density to rise but quality of life will be sustained, say ministers
By Jessica Cheam, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

SINGAPORE has enough land set aside to build 700,000 more homes by 2030, when the population is projected to be in the range of 6.5 million to 6.9 million.

New towns will be built in areas such as Bidadari, Tampines North and Tengah, and there will be more housing in the central region and in mature estates with pockets of land available, especially around transport hubs.

All these plans will be rolled out in tandem with nurturing the environment and heritage, said the White Paper outlining Singapore's population strategy.

The policy document forecasted slower but higher quality economic growth on the back of a "calibrated approach" to immigration and foreign workers, as Singapore grapples with the twin challenges of low fertility and an ageing workforce.

The population is estimated to reach 6.5 million to 6.9 million by 2030 in this scenario.

While the population density will go up from 11,000 people per sq km today to about 13,000 in 2030, the quality of life here will not be sacrificed, said ministers yesterday at a briefing.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean noted that, at 13,000, Singapore's population density is still way below that of other cities such as Hong Kong, where the figure is 22,000 per sq km.

He assured Singaporeans that policymakers have looked ahead to ensure sufficient infrastructure to meet the needs of a larger population - and that there will not be a repeat of past miscalculations.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan added: "You can have a higher, seemingly highly dense rebuilt city but considered as highly liveable."

He said Singapore might be better off than some cities with smaller populations and a lower density.

"Population and density per se are important factors but they are not the only factors that determine liveability. The key is good planning, good infrastructure," he said.

In recent years, a heavy inflow of foreigners led to a squeeze on transport and housing, fuelling concerns over the cost of living.

On the review of Singapore's population strategy that led to the White Paper, DPM Teo said that "we don't look only at the long term, 2020 or 2030, but also to the medium term to make sure we address the current infrastructure issues that we are facing".

In the nearer term, some steps the Government has taken include adding 800 new buses over the next five years, 110,000 more public housing units and 90,000 private homes by 2016, and 4,100 new hospital beds by 2020.

Mr Khaw said that the Government will build a buffer "wherever possible" to cater to demand for homes.

But planners have to find that "sweet spot" in balancing demand and supply as the future is uncertain and projections are only estimates, he added.

"Underdo it then we have today's problem, overdo it then it is too costly for taxpayers... We have to find that sweet spot."

Observers said that it all comes down to adequate planning. Institute of Policy Studies research associate Christopher Gee said that "with the right planning and sufficient time to execute, the physical infrastructure can be built to accommodate the population".

Dr Tan Khay Boon, senior lecturer at SIM Global Education, noted however that it will be challenging to maintain a high quality of living with a bigger population.

"More communication with the public may be needed to address this concern," he said.

The ministry is releasing a land-use plan paper tomorrow to give more details.

Goal: 15,000-25,000 new citizens a year
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

SINGAPORE plans to give citizenship to between 15,000 and 25,000 foreigners each year, to ensure a strong Singaporean core in the make-up of the country.

The projection is not a major departure from the current situation: In the past five years, an average of 18,500 new citizens have taken the oath each year.

To ensure Singapore can draw on a pool of suitable candidates for citizenship, the Government will continue to do what it has been doing in the past three years - give permanent resident status to 30,000 foreigners a year.

These plans that mark a new approach to immigration are, however, just part of the picture on Singapore's population in the next 20 years, as laid out in a White Paper released yesterday.

The other part involves new pro-family measures to encourage citizens to marry and give birth, and greater efforts at integrating new immigrants into Singapore society.

Striking a fine balance between the two is the Government's goal, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at a press conference on the White Paper on a Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore.

"If we don't grow at all, or shrink, then we will face all the problems of an ageing population but lack the dynamism in the economy... But if we go too quickly, then we may go beyond the constraints that we have," he said.

The new immigration policy is expected to shore up the resident population of citizens and PRs to between 4.2 million and 4.4 million in 2030. This will be a 10 to 15 per cent rise from the 3.82 million as of June last year.

The citizen population, in turn, will climb from 3.29 million to between 3.6 million and 3.8 million, with the PR population stabilising at 500,000 to 600,000. If there was no immigration, the citizen population would shrink from 2025 in the wake of the current low total fertility rate of 1.2.

Stressing the need to inject new blood from abroad, the White Paper said: "We will continue to welcome new citizens and permanent residents who can contribute to Singapore, add to our diversity, share our values and integrate into society. They supplement our population, and help build a stronger and more sustainable Singaporean core."

Singapore has tightened its immigration policy in recent years, following a 2009 review, prompted by unhappiness over the flood of foreigners from the mid-2000s. The number of people given PR status fell from 79,000 in 2008 to almost 30,000 annually in the past three years.

But the new immigration rate is not set in stone, said the White Paper. It will be reviewed from time to time, based on the quality of applicants, birth rates and changing needs.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, in response to a question at the White Paper press conference, assured the Malay community the changes will not affect their position. He said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had twice given the assurance that "it is the government policy to ensure that we maintain a racial balance as far as possible".

The White Paper also identified a growing contributor of new citizens: non-Singaporeans who wed Singaporeans. They make up four in 10 Singaporean marriages a year, or about 9,000 in 2011.

Asked if rules would be eased for their spouses to become citizens, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu said: "We do not intend at this moment to encourage one way or the other."

4 in 10 Singaporeans married foreigners in 2012
If trend keeps up, policymakers may have to reconsider stand on dual citizenship: Analysts
By Ashley Chia, TODAY, 30 Jan 2013

Married to an American who works in the US Army, Ms Rachel Tang, 30, a Singaporean civil servant, has considered giving up her Singapore citizenship for an American one to enjoy the opportunities open to its citizens.

Yet, she is reluctant to let go of what Singapore has to offer, such as “the good education system and higher economic growth” here compared to some parts of the United States.

Meanwhile, Mr Wier Thong, 29, a Singaporean sales associate, is married to Madam Jessie Li Jie, 30, from China, whose Chinese passport is an obstacle to them travelling because of the visa requirements. However, with ageing parents to care for back home, Mdm Li, who holds a Long-Term Visit Pass, does not want to give up her Chinese citizenship.

Ms Tang and Mr Thong are among the growing pool of Singaporeans who marry non-Singaporeans.

And as the Government looks at ways to strengthen its Singaporean core while growing its population, Ms Tang and Mr Thong hope that it will, for instance, reconsider its stand on dual citizenship so they need not be torn between two countries.

Last year, 9,000 marriages registered in Singapore — or about four in 10 — involved a Singaporean and a non-Singaporean. That figure has held steady for the past five years.

In the White Paper on population released yesterday, the Government said that Singapore’s immigration policy “must also take into account” this growing proportion, including children born to Singaporean citizens overseas.

Analysts whom TODAY spoke to said that if this trend continues, it may prompt policymakers to reconsider dual citizenship, although they stressed that changing the law is not the only way to encourage this group to “sink in their roots”.

Sociologist and former Nominated Member of Parliament Paulin Straughan, a staunch advocate of dual citizenship, called for more measures such as courting and engaging children below 21 born overseas and who carry dual citizenship, to make them feel that Singapore is their home.

“Many of them have already been educated here ... allow them to sink in their roots, build their careers without fear that they have to give up their Singapore citizenship,” urged Associate Professor Straughan, adding that the ones who stay would “contribute meaningfully” to Singapore society.

In 2011, about 2,000 children were granted citizenship upon registration by their parents.

Assoc Prof Straughan also suggested a “differentiated system” where only children with one Singaporean parent be allowed dual citizenship. But Member of Parliament Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) said dual citizenship could cause a “loss of identity”. People could also exploit the system, such as finding ways out of obligations like National Service, he pointed out.

Senior research fellow Leong Chan Hoong at the Institute of Policy Studies said dual citizenship is becoming increasingly common. Although the Government has never said “no” to the proposition, the understanding is that “the time is not right”, he noted.

Door to stay open for 3 groups of foreign workers
In demand: Those in health care and low-skilled jobs, and global talent
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

THE intake of foreign workers is projected to slow substantially from now on, but the Government made it clear in its Population White Paper yesterday that it will keep the door open for three groups of migrant workers.

The first are foreigners to support Singapore's social needs - such as health-care and eldercare workers, who will be in great demand when one in five Singaporeans is older than 65 in 2030.

The second are foreigners to do the routine, low-skilled jobs in sectors such as construction, retail and food services. If wages are raised enough to attract locals to such jobs, costs will rise sharply. Even then, Singaporeans may still aspire for higher-skilled and more rewarding work, noted the White Paper.

The third group of foreigners whom Singapore will continue to welcome are global talent with cutting-edge skills and abilities.

These foreigners will help "kick-start" new industries in Singapore, said the White Paper, and through the transfer of skills train local workers in these sectors.

Plus, it added, a foreign contingent in the workforce acts as a buffer against local retrenchment in a recession.

In response to Singaporeans' concerns about unfair job competition from foreigners, the White Paper said that incidents of discrimination should be raised with the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices.

From now until 2020, the workforce is projected to grow at a pace of 1 per cent to 2 per cent a year. Of this, 0.7 percentage point will be from the entry of locals, while the rest will be from the injection of foreign manpower.

From 2020 to 2030, the workforce is projected to grow at 1 per cent a year, of which the local contribution will shrink to 0.1 percentage point.

These projected growth rates are about half the 3.3 per cent average rate of the last 30 years.

It is substantially lower than the pace of recent years.

From 2007 to last year, the workforce swelled at a rate of about 7 per cent a year.

The Government has explained that this rapid expansion is a result of the decision to grab growth opportunities when they arose.

But when asked yesterday if it will breach its new projections for workforce expansion if such opportunities come up in the future, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said: "We need to forgo some of that because there's a cost that comes with growth.

"I think if we allow fairly unfettered growth, if we meet all the demands that are raised to us, you will also find that the numbers become quite untenable."

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Associate Professor Hui Weng Tat told The Straits Times that businesses should expect tighter controls on foreign workers, if the 1 to 2 per cent growth projection is to be realised in the next seven years.

SIM Global Education senior lecturer Tan Khay Boon said companies will scale down, close down or relocate in this period.

"But we have proven in the past that we can adapt to changes when the need arises. In the long term, it is possible that the productivity growth will be more significant as firms will view it as the only way to survive and grow."

Transport network to meet demand: Lui Tuck Yew
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

THE population could go up by 30 per cent between now and 2030, and transport planners are ensuring that the rail network will double during that time.

In the short to medium term, the Transport Ministry will raise capacity, improve reliability and manage demand, Minister Lui Tuck Yew said in response to concerns of a repeat of transport congestion as the population grows.

"I am far more concerned and working to address some of the short and medium-term issues," he told a press conference yesterday. Over the past two weeks, Mr Lui has announced plans for two new rail lines and three extensions that will double the rail network from 178km now to about 360km by 2030.

Eight in 10 households will then be within a 10-minute walk of a station, more than the six in 10 now. To help them reach stations comfortably, 200km of covered walkways will be added.

Yesterday, he focused on immediate concerns like boosting capacity, starting with the Downtown Line that will open in stages over the next five years. "Even while it is a three-car line, it is going to add 50 per cent capacity to the East-West corridor," he said.

The North-South corridor will have finished re-signalling work too, adding about 20 per cent capacity during peak hours, while new trains on the North-East Line will be able to carry 70 per cent more passengers by 2015.

On reliability, Mr Lui said efforts are paying off: One train is withdrawn for every thousand train trips on the North-South and East-West lines, an improvement from before. Commuters' feedback also indicates that they have noticed an improvement over the past six months. He said the new target is to reduce the train withdrawal rate by a further 20 per cent by the end of the year.

His ministry is also looking into managing the demand for travel during peak hours, such as working with employers to introduce more flexible working hours.

It will also "watch very closely" the affordability of public transport fares, which have cumulatively risen by about 0.3 per cent over the last five to six years.

The White Paper on Population noted that demand for public transport was underestimated in the second half of the last decade.

It said: "As part of our population planning, we must therefore look well ahead and implement infrastructure plans in a timely manner."

One boy's future in 2030, according to the White Paper
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

IN 2030, Daniel Tay will be 24 and ready to step into the working world.

But for every Daniel that joins the workforce, two others will retire, as Singapore's population ages dramatically as a result of low birth rates and people living longer.

This picture is quite different from today's, where two new workers replace every one that leaves.

By 2030, Daniel's older sisters Elizabeth and Anna will be 28 and 26 years old. Rebecca, however, will be 19 and still in school.

By then, the number of seniors aged 65 and older would have tripled to 900,000 in 2030.

Their parents hold white-collar jobs. Mr Augustine Tay is a manager in a software firm and Madam Cheong Sze Chen is a financial consultant and music instructor. Both are 37. And they nurse the hope that their children can have good-paying jobs.

If the White Paper on a Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore pans out, two out of three Singaporeans will be professionals, managers, executives and technicians. It is one in two now.

Daniel's colleagues, clients and maybe friends will include foreigners, permanent residents and new citizens, who will give the country a fillip even as economic growth slows to 2 to 3 per cent a year, unlike today's 3 to 5 per cent.

Like his Indonesian maid Pasri Genep Slamt, 29, a foreigner may look after his children.

However, he may not drive a car like his parents, and not only because the cost of doing so is high. The rail network will have doubled. Most people will walk to an MRT station. Trains should not be overcrowded even with 6.9 million people on the island.

And he should find an HDB flat amid green spaces to make his home, with the wait to own one not too long.

Slower, but quality economic growth over next 20 years
By Robin Chan, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

A SLOWER pace of growth can be expected in Singapore over the next 20 years, with the economy projected to expand at about 2 to 3 per cent annually after 2020.

But there is a silver lining in this slowdown, according to the Government's new report on population issues facing the country that was released yesterday.

The growth would be of a quality that will allow the economy to stay competitive to create high- value and good jobs for Singaporeans amid a rising Asia, said Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran at a press conference. The projection will also help ensure the country strikes a balance between staying dynamic and avoiding over-straining the economy with searing growth.

"It is a challenging but realistic forecast of what we can achieve based on our aspirations and our domestic constraints," said Mr Iswaran, elaborating on the White Paper on a Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore.

"If we want to support the aspirations, then we need a certain level of growth that will ensure vibrancy, a certain pep in the economy to create more opportunities, not just for Singaporeans in terms of jobs but also for our businesses... A slower growth rate compared to the historical rates does not mean the growth cannot be one of quality," he added.

This vitality is imperative as the profile of the future workforce is set to change dramatically.

As Singaporeans become more educated, the number in white- collar PMET jobs will swell from half the workforce to about two- thirds by 2030. This means 1.25 million Singaporeans will be professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET), against 850,000 today.

Such jobs, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, "come when you have good companies being here". "So we need to remain competitive, productive and attractive enough for them to exist," he added.

But the projected economic growth rate will not come easy, as two factors have to change: The labour force will have to expand slower, while productivity needs to rise faster than in the past.

If productivity is to grow 2 to 3 per cent a year, and the labour force, 1 to 2 per cent at the same time, Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) growth will be about 3 to 5 per cent. But to expect productivity to rise at around 3 per cent is a "stretch target", so overall economic growth is more likely to be between 3 and 4 per cent from now to 2020.

And from 2020 to 2030, productivity growth is likely to slow to about 1 to 2 per cent each year, because high productivity is a struggle for mature economies.

In addition, Singapore's greying population means the labour force will inch up even slower, at about 1 per cent a year over the later decade. Together, these will result in an annual GDP growth of 2 to 3 per cent.

Said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Chua Hak Bin: "Businesses and Singaporeans will have to accept that 2 to 3 per cent is the new growth norm. This represents a balance between achieving economic dynamism and social cohesion."

But economist Yeoh Lam Keong, vice-president of the Economic Society of Singapore, believes the Government could further cut labour force growth.

"I don't think the difference in additional jobs created is going to be that significant relative to the crowdedness and difficulties with a bigger foreigner population."

Association of Small and Medium Enterprises president Chan Chong Beng said the slower growth and tighter labour force will be "tough on businesses", but agreed that it was necessary for the long term. "If we don't take this approach we will end up like Japan, with a shrinking workforce and a lot of industries affected. Then it will be too late," he said.

Key figure is growth rate, not headcount
By Tessa Wong And Jessica Cheam, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

WHILE the projected 6.9 million population in Singapore for 2030 is likely to grab eyeballs, experts and Members of Parliament said the more important figure to focus on was the anticipated lower growth rate.

Most felt the 2 to 3 per cent growth in Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) was reasonable.

This gradual decline from a growth of 3 to 5 per cent is "realistic and certainly achievable", DBS economist Irvin Seah said. It is in line with an ageing population.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh noted that in most developed countries, people worry about lower growth as there may not be enough quality jobs and unemployment will rise. But he argued that the situation in Singapore will be different as it has a buffer: its pool of cheap foreign labour, which is still sizeable.

This pool could be reduced further, he said, so that there is room for productivity to grow and employers are willing to pay more. "So, there will still be good jobs for Singaporeans," he said.

Some, however, were unsure whether the lower pace of growth could ensure a continued high standard of living.

"Everybody is going to work three times harder to maintain the current standard of life... if our productivity and service innovations don't kick in. I don't know what we can do to maintain a comfortable standard of living," said senior research fellow Gillian Koh of the Institute of Policy Studies.

Some also voiced concern that lower growth would mean lower wages.

But Mr Seah Kian Peng, member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Education, noted the Government's goal to raise real wages by 30 per cent in the current decade, through productivity increases and investment in skills upgrading.

If this is fulfilled, "I think quality of life would not be compromised," he said.

Veteran MP Charles Chong observed that the economic and population growth figures were calibrated "so that we can accept slower growth, and Singaporeans will still be the core".

While most believe that foreigners are essential for a vibrant economy, they said the Government needs to ensure that Singaporeans will still feel valued and that infrastructure is built on time.

The Government will build additional homes and rail lines, and add hospital beds, but these will take time, creating a "lag" that might lead to a "mismatch" between available infrastructure and the population growth, said Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Edwin Tong.

Political scientist Reuben Wong of the National University of Singapore said the shrinking proportion of the citizen core would pose questions on how the social fabric and a cohesive identity of Singapore will be maintained.

"This is going to be a hard sell, politically," he said.

One way to overcome it is for the Government to explain to people clearly and in detail how their lives will be affected, said sociologist Paulin Straughan.

"People want to understand it in bread-and-butter terms. When you say 2 to 3 per cent GDP growth, what is my job and my salary going to look like?" she said.

"The Government has to ask citizens, are you comfortable with a more modest growth rate? Because if you are not, to go even higher would require an even bigger population growth."


The Government has to ask citizens, are you comfortable with a more modest growth rate? Because if you are not, to go even higher would require an even bigger population growth.

- Sociologist Paulin Straughan

Population road map: It's the day-to-day journey that matters
By Lydia Lim, The Straits Times, 30 Jan 2013

IT IS an uphill task to convince a broad swathe of Singaporeans that a future population of 6.9 million will fit nicely on this small island, given the current congestion on trains and buses and a housing shortfall of recent memory.

It is also easy to mistake that figure as a target, and to misunderstand the Government's White Paper as a road map to get to 6.9 million people. But 6.9 million is neither the Government's starting nor end point.

"Our goal is simple," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote on Facebook yesterday. "To ensure Singapore continues thriving, for the sake of our younger generation."

What is less simple is the how. And that is what the White Paper grapples with.

The three challenges are: a shortage of Singaporean babies, creating enough good jobs for Singaporeans and a good quality of life. Now, how do these add up to a projected population of 6.5 million to 6.9 million by 2030?

Let's start with babies.

Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) has been below replacement level for three decades. At the current TFR of 1.2, the citizen population will start to shrink from 2030.

The White Paper proposes more baby boosters to encourage marriage and parenthood. The Government will bump up its spending on this from $1.6 billion to $2 billion a year.

Singapore will also take in 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens a year to prevent this shrinkage, so "we don't die out like the dinosaurs", as one civil servant put it. As for permanent residents, it will take in 30,000 a year to ensure a pool of suitable potential citizens.

As most of these immigrants will likely be of working age, they will help support the growing number of elderly Singaporeans who have retired.

Next, job creation.

By 2030, two in three Singaporean workers will be professionals, managers, executives and technicians - up from half today. It will be a challenge to create enough good jobs to satisfy the aspirations of this well-educated group, and high-quality jobs for the rest of the workforce.

The White Paper projects a growth rate for the economy that the Government considers realistic and sustainable. That's 3 to 5 per cent a year up to 2020 and 2 to 3 per cent a year thereafter, up to 2030. To keep growing, Singapore will need to remain open to foreigners. The Government is unequivocal on that point.

These foreign workers will do lower-level service jobs that Singaporeans are not keen on. They will build new homes and train lines. They will help families take care of their elderly members.

A smaller number will be here to set up and run new industries.

To have enough people to do all these things, the White Paper estimates Singapore will need 1.8 million to 1.9 million foreigners by 2020, and 2.3 million to 2.5 million foreigners by 2030. Most of them will be in the workforce. Some will be students and the rest dependants of those working here. Add up these three groups - citizens, PRs and foreigners - and one ends up with a population of up to 6.9 million by 2030.

The main purpose of putting down this figure is so the ministries in charge of building homes and train lines can plan and act ahead of demand.

The White Paper sets out how the Government intends to provide for Singaporeans young and old. If all goes as planned, the future may well turn out to be more vibrant than today, with good- quality jobs, a high quality of life and a nation that can still cohere with Singaporeans at the core.

The White Paper may be the end outcome of a consultation process. But it is really also the start of another challenge: winning over ordinary Singaporeans.

And they will judge the population road map not on the logic of its projections but on their own experience of policies as felt on the ground.

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