Friday 29 September 2017

Singapore's population at 5.61 million as of June 2017

Singapore's population grows at slowest pace in a decade
Only 5,000 people added in year to June as number of Work Permit holders decreases
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2017

If Singapore does not seem more crowded these days, that is because the total population hardly grew in the 12 months since June last year.

It expanded by a mere 0.1 per cent - or about 5,000 - to 5.61 million, the slowest growth rate in more than a decade.

In contrast, the total population - which includes residents and non-residents - in the decade before 2017 expanded by an average of 2.45 per cent each year.

The chief reason for the snail-paced growth is the decrease in the number of Work Permit holders.

As a result, the non-resident population shrank by 1.6 per cent to 1.65 million, the first drop in 14 years.

The fall in the number of Work Permit holders is due to the slowdown in two sectors - construction, and marine and offshore engineering - the National Population and Talent Division said in its annual Population in Brief report, which was released yesterday.

Non-residents consist of Work Permit holders, Employment and S Pass holders, foreign students, foreign maids and other dependants.

Dr Mathew Mathews of the Institute of Policy Studies said the reduced number of non-residents reflects "the tightening of the inflow of migrants", and is in line with government attempts to nudge industries to raise produc-tivity "rather than just rely on additional labour".

He added that in the longer term, it is important to consider if "there is sufficient quality foreign manpower that can be injected into the Singaporean labour force".

"It is always a question of balancing the needs of a robust economy with sufficient manpower and ensuring a Singaporean core is not compromised," he said.

Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of the National University of Singapore said if the fall in Work Permit holders is due to industries transforming and relying less on foreign labour, "then it may be good news for those who are unhappy about the large proportion of migrant labour in Singapore".

Meanwhile, Singapore's citizen population continues to age.

The proportion of Singaporeans aged 65 and older rose to 14.4 per cent, from 13.7 per cent in 2016.

Citizen births remained stable.

It fell in 2016 by 1.7 per cent to 33,167, after a record high in 2015 that experts attributed to the SG50 feel-good effect. Still, the 2016 figure is higher than the average of 32,200 in the past 10 years.

On the whole, the citizen population grew by 0.9 per cent to 3.44 million, owing to citizen births and immigration, the report said.

The breakdown of citizens by ethnicity did not change from a year ago: 76.1 per cent Chinese, 15 per cent Malay, 7.4 per cent Indian and 1.5 per cent other races.

The permanent resident population stayed flat at 527,000.

Citizen marriages - or marriages involving at least one citizen - rose marginally last year to 23,873. Of these, 36 per cent were between a citizen and a non-citizen, down from 41 per cent in 2010.

Citizen marriages involving two races stood at 21 per cent in 2016, the same as in 2015 but significantly higher than 10 years earlier, when it was 15 per cent.

Singapore ageing at faster pace than a decade ago
Pool of citizens aged 65 and older grew to 14.4% this year, from 9.4% in 2007, as lifespans increase and births stay low
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2017

Singapore is greying at a faster pace compared with the last decade, said the annual Population in Brief report released by the National Population and Talent Division yesterday.

The reason: Singaporeans are living longer and having few babies.

Proportionally, the pool of citizens aged 65 and older grew to 14.4 per cent, from 13.7 per cent last year - markedly higher than in 2007, when the figure was 9.4 per cent.

Along with this increase, the median age of citizens rose marginally to 41.3, from 41 last year.

Also, the ratio showing the number of citizens aged 20 to 64, for every citizen aged 65 and older, has gone down to 4.4, from 4.7 last year.

This citizen old-age support ratio could drop to as low as 2.4 by 2030, the report said.

The report also highlighted that women who marry earlier tend to have more children. Those who marry at 25 have an average of nearly two children by age 45, while women who marry at 35 have an average of about one child by 45.

Total resident fertility rate fell from 1.24 in 2015 to 1.2 last year, significantly lower than the replacement rate of 2.1.

Experts told The Straits Times that while the population will continue to age, it is less clear what the impact on public spending and the economy will be.

Dr Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences said cohorts entering retirement in the coming years are much better prepared financially than, say, the pioneer generation. This means public spending on each retiree throughout their retirement years is expected to go down, he said.

But this hinges on two things not going up too much in the coming years, he added. One is healthcare costs - in view of medical advancements - and the other is how much retirees expect the Government to spend on their needs.

Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of the National University of Singapore said that "if seniors are able to enjoy good health and can support themselves for a much longer time, then there is less cause for concern".

He added that there is potential for meeting the challenges of an ageing population by taking greater advantage of the digital economy.

Where digital transformations can help seniors "extend their productive working lives" and, at the same time, "reduce the need for foreign labour, then the prospect may be somewhat happier", he said.

Dr Mathew Mathews of the Institute of Policy Studies said ageing "does not have to be viewed as a crisis" because many older Singaporeans continue to be productive in their later years.

Singapore is top choice for expats for third year: HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2017
By Marissa Lee, The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2017

Singapore is the world's top destination for expatriates for the third year running but Switzerland is where they earn the most.

The battle for top spot was tight, with Singapore narrowly beating Norway. New Zealand is third, followed by Germany and then the Netherlands, according to an annual league table produced by British bank HSBC.

It polled 27,587 expats across the world, including 476 here, to compile a ranking of 46 economies.

Almost 75 per cent of those polled here said the country offered better earnings potential than their home country. Indeed, they cited a 42 per cent increase in their annual income since moving here to an average of almost US$118,000 (S$160,000).

But life in Singapore is not cheap, especially for the 40 per cent of those polled who have families.

Almost 90 per cent of this group say childcare here is more expensive than at home, although 26 per cent of all expats here feel their host city - Singapore - offers an excellent education system, compared with only 10 per cent of expats across the entire survey.

Globally, expats have an average annual gross personal income of just under US$100,000 - 25 per cent more than they had at home. That's US$18,000 lower than the average in Singapore. But the place that really takes the cake in pay is Switzerland, where expats earn an average of more than US$193,000 a year - 54 per cent more than what they could draw at home. The top five economies by expat income are Switzerland, India, China, the United States and Hong Kong.

The report also found that investing in property is particularly popular among expats in Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Britain, home to some of the most expensive property markets in the world.

Separate research by Savills for HSBC showed prime residential property costs about US$3,800 per sq ft (psf) in Hong Kong, US$1,700 psf in London, US$990 psf in Singapore and US$590 psf in Dubai.

The HSBC poll also noted that 70 per cent of Singaporeans working abroad said their work-life balance has improved since they left home, compared with 53 per cent of expats globally. And 42 per cent of Singaporean expats said their social life is better than it was at home.

Takeaways from Singapore's population data
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 3 Oct 2017

Singapore's total population grew by a mere 0.1 per cent to 5.61 million in the 12 months leading up to June this year - the slowest growth rate in more than a decade. In the 10 years before that, total population increased by an average of 2.45 per cent each year.

The annual population report, released last week by the National Population and Talent Division, indicates that the minimal rise is a result of a decline in Work Permit holders which, in turn , is due to a "weakening" in two sectors: construction, and marine and offshore engineering.

The falling number of Work Permit holders also led to the non-resident population here declining for the first time in 14 years. It dipped by 1.6 per cent to 1.65 million.

These numbers may give some people cause for cheer. In the lead-up to the 2011 General Election, Singaporeans were deeply concerned about the fast pace of immigration, and they voiced their displeasure through the ballot box.

In the decade before the 2011 election, total population grew by one million, or 100,000 a year. Compare this to the latest figures, which show total population rising by just 5,000 from 2016 to 2017.

The slight increase is a consequence of the Government moderating the foreign worker inflow since the election. At the same time, it has been working with companies to lift productivity, to reduce their reliance on these workers.

But there is a flip side to the changes. Raising productivity is not easily achieved. If the foreign worker inflow is not calibrated right, firms may lose their competitive edge, resulting in Singapore becoming less attractive to foreign investors.

At some point, there may be a need for us, as a nation, to have another conversation about Singapore's future as a cosmopolitan society and a vibrant economy, while preserving the sense of rootedness and identity among the local core.

For that conversation, last week's numbers provide much food for thought.

Singapore faces a grim labour future as population ages rapidly: Oxford Economics

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