Saturday 27 September 2014

Singapore population growth hits 10-year low; 5.47 million as of June 2014

Singapore population grows at slowest pace in 10 years
Population hits 5.47 million, with fewer foreigners being hired
By Tham Yuen-C, The Straits Times, 26 Sep 2014

SINGAPORE'S population grew at its slowest pace in 10 years for the 12 months ending this June, as fewer foreign workers were hired.

It crept up 1.3 per cent to 5.47 million people, including permanent residents and foreigners working here, according to a report released by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) yesterday.

In the previous year, the rise was 1.6 per cent.

The citizen population, however, continued to grow at the same pace as in the previous 12 months, rising almost 1 per cent to reach 3.34 million now.

But with Singaporeans living longer and having fewer babies, the population continues to age, noted the NPTD.

Those aged 65 and older form 12.4 per cent of the citizen population in June, up from 11.7 per cent a year earlier.

The new 1.3 per cent population growth is in line with the Government's projections in its White Paper on population, published in January last year, and is likely to continue, said Dr Kang Soon-Hock, head of SIM University's social science core.

Should it be maintained, economist Song Seng Wun calculates that the population will cross the six-million mark in 2022, eight years from now.

"This rate means Singapore would take 12 years to add one million people compared to the 10 years it would take previously," said Mr Song, of CIMB Research.

Experts attribute the slide to government policies aimed at reducing the inflow of foreigners.

The NPTD said as much, pointing out that the Government had taken "concrete steps... to slow the growth of our foreign workforce to a more sustainable pace".

But Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Chua Hak Bin warned the reduced pace, coupled with Singapore's low birth rate and rising number of elderly people, could hurt the economy.

"The effects of the ageing population would be felt more keenly with the tightening of immigration policies leading to fewer younger people being allowed into Singapore on work passes," he said.

The slower foreign flow is seen mainly in the service sector, the NPTD's Population In Brief 2014 report shows.

As a result, foreign employment rose by just 3 per cent this time, compared with 5.9 per cent previously.

In turn, the non-resident population, made up mostly of foreign workers, climbed by only 2.9 per cent against 4 per cent before.

The rise in the number of elderly people has led to a further fall in the old-age support ratio, which is the number of citizens in the working-age band of 20 to 64 supporting one older citizen. It is now 5.2 versus 5.5 previously.

As for marriages, the annual numbers were 21,842 this June compared with 23,192 a year ago.

Birth figures were similarly disappointing across all ethnic groups.

The fertility rate fell to 1.19 last year from 1.29 in the Dragon Year, way below the replacement rate of 2.1 per cent.

Coupled with the fact that Singapore's productivity drive has not delivered "material gains", these could weigh on growth, said Dr Chua.

National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said a balance has to be struck between the need for a vibrant economy, a liveable environment, and enough resources to address problems of an ageing population.

If Singaporeans want to maintain the present standard of living, there must be enough people - whether local or foreign - to do jobs where there are not enough workers, like in eldercare, to sustain "some minimal level of economic growth", he said.

"There are trade-offs and we have to make difficult choices. We can't always have our cake and eat it, sadly," he added.

Growing number of singles in Singapore
By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia, 26 Sep 2014

Singlehood rates are among the highest for lower-educated Singaporean men in their 30s and 40s, and higher educated women in Singapore, according to the country's latest Population report released on Thursday (Sep 25). The statistics show a growing number of singles in this country, and when they do marry, it's at a much later age.

35 per cent of men between the ages of 35 and 39 who had secondary education or less were single in 2013. Comparatively, only 23 per cent of those with university education were single.

As the men get older, about 28 per cent who had secondary education or less remained single. Comparatively, only 14 per cent of men between the ages of 40 and 44 who had degrees remained single.


In contrast, 26 per cent women between the ages of 35 and 39 who have had university education were single last year. As they hit their early 40s, about 20 per cent remained single.

Observers say these figures are worrying against the backdrop of a shrinking and greying population. "When they get older and they are home alone, so to speak, it could be a problem because they have no one to take care of them, psychologically and financially," said Dr Chung Wai-Keung, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Singapore Management University.

For less-educated men with lower incomes, this means their CPF savings will also be lower, and this could be a problem if they remain single as they get older, he said. For the women with higher levels of education, "it is less of a problem but it's still something the Government needs to take care of".

"In 10 years time, they need to re-evaluate the situation, in response to this increasing rate of singlehood. Definitely they should provide a better public health system. In terms of housing, there maybe housing for single persons," said Dr Chung.

He also suggested building a community dominated by single persons and add to it other public service facilities, much like what Hong Kong is doing.


Many of the less-educated men tend to turn to foreign brides from developing countries. There were more than 5,000 marriages between Singaporean men and foreign women last year. Counsellor Willie Chien said such marriages bring their own set of social problems: "We have spouses coming from Thailand, Batam, China and also from Vietnam, Many of these people struggle to find acceptance and support locally. So if that particular person, for whatever reason, is separated from her husband, then she is left all alone to fend for herself."

The number of women marrying foreign spouses is also going up. There were more than 1,500 marriages involving Singaporean brides and foreign grooms last year, nearly double the figure compared to 10 years ago.

However, a match-maker Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that marrying someone seen to be less qualified may soon become the norm for women, as attitudes towards finding a life partner changes.

Said Ms Anisa Hassan, Managing Director for the matchmaking service It's Just Lunch: "It's natural for women to be looking for an academic equal or somebody who earns in similar income bracket as them. But their priorities change as they get into their late 30s or 40s. So there is going to be a big reversal in trend, I foresee."


In most Asian societies, the man is often seen as the breadwinner of the family and the one in charge, and this is compounded by the view that education, income and prestige are closely intertwined.

Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies Dr Yap Mui Teng believes such perceptions are likely to change when there are more pathways to success. 

"I guess this phenomenon will only go away when education and income and prestige are not so closely tied together, so that males who do not do well academically but are skilled in other ways may be equally well-regarded in society and make equally good incomes," he said. "This will probably take time. With the rising educational levels in the country, hopefully this will ameliorate the situation somewhat."

Tanjong Pagar, Bugis have highest proportion of elderly
By Saifulbahri Ismail, Channel NewsAsia, 25 Sep 2014

The proportion of Singapore's older residents is the highest in the Downtown area such as Tanjong Pagar and Bugis. Two out of every 10 residents there are aged 65 years and above, according to the latest Population Trends report released by the Department of Statistics on Thursday (Sep 25).

The annual Population Trends report puts together different aspects of demographic statistics. One of them is on the geographical distribution of residents.

As of June this year, Singapore has a total of 431,600 residents who are 65 years and above. They form 11.2 per cent of the 3.87 million residents in the country.

Apart from the Downtown area, older housing estates like Outram, Sungei Kadut, Rochor and Bukit Merah have a high proportion of elderly residents.

At the other end of the scale, the proportion of children aged below 5 years is generally higher among residents living in relatively newer estates.

In 2014, Punggol has the highest proportion of children. One in every 10 residents in Punggol is aged below 5 years old. Sengkang, Changi, Sembawang and Jurong West also have a high proportion of younger residents.

As in previous years, Bedok topped the list as the most populated town in Singapore. There are 293,110 people living in Bedok. As for Jurong West, Tampines, and Woodlands, each of them has more than a quarter of a million residents.

The fastest growing town is Punggol. There are 10,070 more residents this year, compared with 2013.

Facing up to population realities
Editorial, The Straits Times, 8 Oct 2014

OVERALL population growth has been a visceral issue since the last election, reaching a peak of discontent with the publication of the White Paper on the working assumptions up to 2030. Many were equating the matter solely with living space and job scarcity if the population grew to between six and seven million, bumped up by immigration.

Those who still hold to this position should ponder the latest population statistic showing the country had its slowest rate of growth for a decade last year - at 1.3 per cent to reach 5.47 million. Citizens accounted for six in 10 persons. With a slower intake of foreign professionals and immigrant labour, and with more rapid development in infrastructure to relieve pressure, the old complaints are less insistent but they might never dissipate.

Studying birth rates, life expectancies and net migration gain or loss in relation to a country's economic performance and quality of life, demographers see deficiencies in the profile. The nexus ought to worry the average Singaporean, too. One troubling figure is the old-age support ratio, with its implications of lower tax revenue and higher social spending. It has halved in one generation - from 10.4 working adults for each person aged 65 plus in 1990, to 5.2 last year.

For an economy without a fallback on the bounty of nature, this is unsustainable. Erosion of economic vitality has long haunted the political leadership; the challenge has been how to make sense of it to the people and convince them about what needs to be done. The furore ignited by the White Paper showed how hard it is to debate the issue dispassionately. Sooner or later, it will have to be confronted anew to seek a balance between quality economic growth and optimal population size.

Japan and some East European countries provide object lessons in uncompensated ageing and consequent loss of competitiveness. Japan would lose a third of its population by mid-century because the Japanese people will not have immigrants in their midst. A lesson for Singapore here? China has begun to ease off on its one-child stringency, alarmed that its rapid rate of ageing relative to births could see the population reduced by about half by the end of the century.

Singapore's citizen population will start to decline in about 10 years without immigration gains. While encouraging more births has been a struggle, another concern is outflow. There are 212,000 citizens abroad (10 years ago, it was 158,000), although the statistics do not indicate how many among them have their usual residence in Singapore. The bottom line is inescapable: Singapore cannot depend on indigenous growth alone to maintain its vitality.

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