Saturday, 29 September 2018

Singapore's fertility rate down to 1.16 in 2017; Total population at 5.64 million as of June 2018

Singapore's fertility rate down as number of singles goes up
Both genders see rising share of singles, but rate of increase for women far exceeds men's
By Rachel Au-Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2018

Fewer Singaporean women tied the knot last year compared with a decade ago, a shift experts say is the biggest cause for the country's low fertility rate.

The biggest proportion of women staying single is in the prime childbearing years of 25 to 29, according to the annual Population in Brief 2018 report released yesterday.

The uptrend coincides with Singapore's total fertility rate plunging to a seven-year low of 1.16 last year, down from 1.20 in 2016. For the population to replace itself without immigration, women need to have an average of 2.1 babies.

"Singleness rate is the most important reason fertility rate in Singapore is low because among those who get married, only 10 per cent do not have any children," said Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research.

But overall, Singapore's total population for the 12-month period ending in June this year rose to 5.64 million, a 0.5 per cent expansion that is an improvement on the previous period's 0.1 per cent, which was the lowest rate in a decade.

The increase, after taking into account factors such as death and immigration, is largely from 32,356 Singaporean births and 22,076 new citizens. But what made experts sit up is the growing share of singles across genders, with the rate of increase for women far exceeding that for men.

It is especially noticeable among women aged between 25 and 29, with the proportion rising from 60.9 per cent in 2007 to 68.1 per cent last year - a jump of 7.2 percentage points.

More older women remained unmarried as well: Those between 30 and 34 years went up 3.9 percentage points to 32.8 per cent, while those aged 40 to 44 climbed by 3.8 percentage points to 18.1 per cent.

Even among men, a bigger proportion in the 25 to 29 age group stayed single: Rising from 77.5 per cent a decade ago to 80.7 per cent last year.

In the 35 to 39 age group, the rise was 1.9 percentage points; that in the 40 to 44 age group was 0.3 point; and in the 45 to 49 group, it was 0.2 point.

Only the proportion in the 30 to 34 age group declined, dipping by 0.3 point to 40.5 per cent last year.

Senior research fellow Mathew Mathews of the Institute of Policy Studies said the stable proportion of single men is because they typically marry later.

Civil engineer Larry Liew, 29, gave another reason for men delaying marriage: "There is still ingrained pressure on men to establish their career and pay the bulk of family expenses. It is not very manly if you can't do that."

But for women, the major reason for staying single is that they no longer have to marry for economic survival, said experts.

"Like more than 100 other countries, more Singapore women are in tertiary educational institutions than men... Getting married is no longer a necessity," said Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research.

Other reasons include long work hours, the high cost of living and a relatively long wait for Housing Board flats, said experts.

Also, many women still get passed up for promotion or high positions because of motherhood.

"These are fundamental factors that young people consider when deciding whether to form a family or not. They need to be addressed if fertility rates are to be increased in Singapore," Prof Yeung said.

Another factor is the exorbitant spending on weddings, said Dr Mathews.

"Our culture has made it such that a wedding is an 'investment' to save for, because couples think they look bad if it is not grand enough. Elsewhere, people seldom delay weddings because they need to save for it," he said.

But 28-year-old investment analyst Ho Xing Xian said that staying single is not so much a choice as it is a case of being unable to find a suitable match.

"The idea that women put their careers first is only part of the story. The reality for me is that most of the good men are taken," she said.

Total population 5.64 million, with number of citizens up 1% to 3.47 million
By Rachel Au-Yong, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 28 Sep 2018

Singapore's total population rose to 5.64 million in the 12-month period ending in June this year, with an increase of about 30,000 that is driven mainly by births among Singaporeans and the addition of new citizens.

This 0.5 per cent growth is an improvement on the previous period's 0.1 per cent, which is the slowest in more than a decade.

Of the 5.64 million, the number of Singapore citizens went up by 1 per cent to 3.47 million, according to the annual Population in Brief 2018 report released yesterday.

The rest comprises permanent residents (PRs) and non-residents, who include people who are here to work, their dependants and international students.

The number of PRs remains relatively stable at 0.52 million, while non-residents make up 1.64 million.

There was a slight decline in foreign employment, of around 10,000 people, in the 12-month period ending this June. This figure, which excludes foreign domestic workers, was due mainly to the fall in the number of Work Permit holders in the construction and marine shipyard sectors.

Meanwhile, the number of citizen births in the last calendar year totalled 32,356, a 2.4 per cent drop against that in 2016.

Still, the figure is higher than the past decade's average of about 32,200 births.

As for the resident total fertility rate, it fell from 1.20 in 2016 to 1.16 last year - the lowest in seven years. The rate needed to replace the population is 2.1.

The number of marriages involving citizens, however, rose 2.3 per cent to 24,417, an annual increase that is above the past decade's average of 22,500 citizen marriages.

Singapore gave citizenship to 22,076 people last year, among whom are 1,600 children born overseas to Singaporean parents.

The figure is in line with the 15,000 to 25,000 new citizenships that are granted each year, as part of Singapore's long-term policy to moderate the impact of an ageing population and low birth rates.

Still, Singapore continues to age, with people aged 65 and older making up 15.2 per cent of the population as of June this year, compared with 14.4 per cent a year ago.

The faster pace of growth of the elderly population is partly due to large cohorts of baby boomers entering the post-65 age category, the report said.

The median age of the citizen population also inched up from 41.3 to 41.7 years.

There are now about 4.2 citizens in the working age band of 20 to 64 years for every elderly citizen, a drop from 6.7 a decade ago. This number could plunge further to 2.4 in 2030, said the report.

Singapore University of Social Sciences labour economist Walter Theseira finds the relatively slow growth in population worrying.

A major consequence would be a contraction in economic growth unless there is an injection of new citizens or permanent residents, especially between the prime working years of 25 and 49, to help contribute to the coffers for social support schemes, he said.

While the Central Provident Fund savings help to ease the burden on taxpayers, Singaporeans need to keep this population issue uppermost on their mind.

"If you have zero or negative population growth, we would have to radically restructure the way we deal with major policies. For example, some things we take for granted, like new Housing Board flats, may no longer be built because there is not enough people to live in them," he added.

Sharp rise in number of people living alone
Reasons include more singles and a wish for privacy, but it may not always be by choice
By Theresa Tan, The Straits Times, 4 Oct 2018

Family life may hold a special place in Singapore but increasing numbers of people are living alone, either by choice or circumstance.

There has been a stark rise over the past two decades or so in what are called one-person resident households. These are households headed by a citizen or permanent resident.

In 2000, there were 75,400 such households, comprising 8.2 per cent of all resident households. That figure rose to 116,400, or 10.8 per cent, in 2007. This increased further to 167,900 last year, or 13 per cent of all resident households, according to Department of Statistics data released last Thursday.

Sociologist Angelique Chan said: "Given the growing affluence and preference for privacy and space, more people (of all ages) are choosing to live alone."

One reason behind the trend is the growing number of singles, such as Miss Law Lipeng, a 41-year-old architect.

Miss Law moved out of her parents' flat into her own apartment last year for more personal space.

She said: "It's quite hard to have privacy when you live with your parents, like even if you want to play music loudly, you will disturb others. Having my own personal space means that I don't have to explain my lifestyle choices to anyone."

An increasing number of divorces has also led to more people living alone, say sociologists and social workers. Singapore is also ageing rapidly, and more seniors - who may or may not have children - have chosen to live out their twilight years alone after their spouse dies.

Some elderly folk may not have a choice. They could have strained ties with their children, for example, said sociologists and social workers interviewed by The Straits Times.

Mrs Jenny Bong, director of Special Projects at the Methodist Welfare Services, said: "Some seniors prefer to be independent as they can do their own thing. Others may fear being dependent on others or prefer not to be obligated to others."

Widower K.P. Sivam, 82, has been living alone in a flat after his wife died about a decade ago. He has three grown-up children, two of whom are living abroad.

Dr Sivam, who works part time as a consultant for the Management Development Institute of Singapore, said: "I don't feel lonely living alone and I value my space and privacy."

He keeps busy by working, exercising in the gym and meeting friends regularly.

But widow Cathy Niew, 67, finds it "very lonely" living on her own.

Madam Niew, who has only the television and newspapers to keep her company, suffers from a host of health problems, including spinal degeneration and osteoporosis.

She needs a walking stick to get around.

"I don't want to trouble my daughter by living with her as she has her own family," she said of her only child, who is married with children of her own. "If you are healthy, it's OK to live by yourself. When you are sick, it's a lot harder."

To pass the time every day, she goes to the senior activity centre run by the Methodist Welfare Services, which is just below her studio apartment, to do exercises and chit-chat with others.

The growing number of elderly people living alone presents a challenge for the health and social service sector. Dr Chan said the challenge is to provide sufficient medical and other help near their homes to cater to them as they may not have loved ones to care for them or even check on them.

Sociologists and social workers told The Straits Times that seniors who live alone may feel lonely, although they acknowledged that those living with family members may feel the same way too.

The key is to ensure that seniors - regardless of living arrangements - remain engaged and not isolated from others.

Dr Jamie Phang, head of Methodist Welfare Services Home Care, said: "If there are no concerted efforts by communities to engage them, singles may become socially isolated and this not only translates into physical ailments, it also predisposes them to mental health problems like depression and anxiety."

Professor Jean Yeung, director of the Centre for Family and Population Research, expects the number of solo dwellers to rise as more people remain single, among other factors.

Fewer young Singaporeans think of emigrating: Institute of Policy Studies Survey on Emigration Attitudes of Young Singaporeans (2016)
Three in five respondents feel they can attain their life goals without leaving the Republic
By Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2018

More young Singaporeans believe they can achieve their life goals here without having to move overseas, research has found.

The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) interviewed more than 2,000 local 19-to 30-year-olds and discovered that fewer were thinking of emigrating permanently.

Findings of the 2016 survey released yesterday showed 18.3 per cent had thought about emigrating, down from 21.2 per cent in 2010.

Meanwhile, 59.3 per cent said that they could achieve the things they want in Singapore without having to leave, up from 45.6 per cent in 2010.

IPS senior research fellow Leong Chan-Hoong, who was part of the team behind the survey, said it showed that more people would rather improve their socio-economic well-being here, such as by studying and working hard, than simply emigrating for a better life.

"If you look back five or six years ago - today, we have a lot more emphasis on cultural immersion, not just at the university level, but also at the polytechnic, secondary and even primary school level," said Dr Leong. "It is a way to internationalise Singapore and to let students know that there is a world out there with a completely different system and way of life."

However, the survey also noted that a larger proportion of Singaporean youth feel that an increase in emigration is inevitable as Singapore gets more stressful and competitive.

"As much as the economy as a whole has done pretty well, and Singapore is more stable than the US, Britain or Europe, the outcome may not be same for everybody," Dr Leong added.

"You may think that the economy has done well, but there may not be enough jobs for everybody."

On the pull of Singapore's national identity, 53.1 per cent of respondents said they would not renounce Singapore citizenship even if they were to become permanent residents in another country, up from 40.6 per cent in 2010.

Most survey respondents chose Australia as their preferred emigration destination, while New Zealand came in second. There was a slight drop in interest in the United States, Britain and Canada, which came in third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

According to the annual Population In Brief report released on Thursday, there were 216,400 overseas Singaporeans as of June this year. This is an increase from the 214,700 at the same time last year, and continues a steady upward trend over the past decade, from 181,900 in 2008.

Ms Denise Phua, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social and Family Development, said the world has shrunk in a sense due to technology, and countries are experiencing challenges similar to those of Singapore in the economy and other areas.

"If we are indeed part of a Singapore family and care about ensuring that everyone's potential can be maximised, then stay and help build a nation that is not only successful economically, but also significant and purposeful," she said.

More young people feel Singapore benefits from foreign talent, survey finds
By Fabian Koh, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2018

More young people in Singapore feel that the country has benefited from the presence of foreign talent, according to newly released research findings.

An Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey in 2016 found that 62.5 per cent of 19-to 30-year-olds believe skilled workers who come here from other countries have contributed to Singapore's development, compared with 45.4 per cent in 2010.

Young Singaporeans also feel that they have greater access to job opportunities and other forms of social resources - such as schemes under self-help groups like Sinda, the Chinese Development Assistance Council and Mendaki - as compared with foreign talent.

"But on the other hand, they also feel that Singaporeans shoulder more social responsibilities compared with foreign talent, so it is a bit of a mixed bag," IPS research associate Debbie Soon, who was part of the three-member research team, said of the findings released yesterday.

Mr Daniel Soh, managing partner of executive headhunting firm Leadership Advisory Inc, said workers from overseas bring expertise or international experience that is not readily available locally.

"Singapore's strong reputation for providing a quality lifestyle and safe living environment is a major draw for foreign talent to accept a working assignment here, without the need for lavish expat packages," he explained.

Ms Wendy Baker, business development and engagement partner of talent consulting firm ICE Asia, pointed out that work visas, including renewals, are becoming more difficult to obtain in Singapore.

There was a rise in the proportion of respondents who viewed the presence of foreign talent as having a negative impact on societal cohesiveness here, from 38.9 per cent to 48 per cent.

They also expressed increased scepticism about the long-term commitment of immigrants.

Mr Soh said most foreigners, especially those with families and young children, typically spend at least five to 10 years here.

Those who are single and more mobile may simply go where there are better opportunities.

"These opportunities have to be very compelling, otherwise, most foreign talent would prefer to continue their career in Singapore," he said.

Ms Baker added that while there are foreigners who stay for the minimum contract period agreed upon with their employers before leaving for another country, there are those who enjoy living in Singapore and stay here for longer, adapting to the culture and often meeting and marrying a local along the way.

The survey was conducted from June to November 2016 involving 2,013 participants aged 19 to 30.

A similar study was conducted in 2010.

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