Is the Singaporean population shrinking? – Part 1

By Leong Sze Hian

To what extent has our liberal foreign labour and citizenship policies affected Singaporeans’ rights with reference to Article 22 and 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights ?

Is the Singaporean population shrinking because of our liberal foreign labour and residency policies?

The answer is probably nobody knows, or maybe just a few may know. Well, perhaps we can try to make a calculated guess…

I refer to media reports about the OCBC survey released on 12 December that 1 out of 50 Singaporeans (2 % of the population) aspire to migrate, and the article “Facts on the ground more eloquent than statistics: Ngiam” (Today, Dec 10).

In the debate on the ministerial pay increase in April, the Minister Mentor argued that without a competent Government, our mothers and daughters will be maids in other countries.

But, if the Singaporean population is indeed shrinking due primarily to emigration, and 2 % of the population aspire to migrate, do our ministers really deserve the 2nd of their 3rd pay increase by 21 % from 1.6 to 1.94 million, come 1 January 2008?

Since the increase for civil servants range from 4 to 21%, why is it that ministers who are already paid the most are also getting the highest pay increase in both percentage and quantum terms?

The latter article reported that:

“Describing the Republic’s productivity performance as “mediocre”, Mr Ngiam pointed out how Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product has expanded “largely on infusions of foreign labour”… Mr Ngiam repeated his concern – which he first made in a People’s Action Party newsletter last month – that Singapore should not be obsessed with bumping up the population for economic purposes, given the advances in technology and education standards.

Said Mr Ngiam: ‘The civil servie is more adept at achieving quantitative than qualitive targets. Topping up our population en masse with immigrants may well create a population base larger than what out economy can sustain'”.

According to the book “Population of Singapore” by Saw Swee-Hock, the ‘Non-Resident Population’ (foreigners) grew by -2.4, -5.7, 0.7, 5.9 and 9.7 per cent, in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively. This means that the rate of growth for foreigners has increased about 15-fold since 2003.

In contrast, the ‘Resident Population’ (Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs)) grew by only 1.8, 1.7, 1.4, 1.9 and 1.5 per cent, for the same respective years, respectively.

The ‘Net Migration’ for 2005 – 06 (mid-year to mid-year) was 130,500, with the ‘Component of Total Population Growth’ being 132,500 for ‘Population Growth’ and 21,671 for ‘Natural Increase’.

If the population grew by 132,500, natural increase was 21,671, with 130,500 ‘net migration the addition of mainly foreign adults to the total population’, does it mean that about 19,671 (21,671 natural increase + 130,500 foreigners – Population increase 132,500) Singaporeans emigrated from Singapore ?

Since a record 13,200 citizenships were granted last year, and a record 57,000 were granted PR status, giving a total of 70,200, the fact that the overall resident population increase was only 55,000, may also support this estimate for emigration (70,200 new citizens/PRs + 22,358 new babies less deaths – 55,000 overall resident population increase – 19,671 estimated Singaporean emigration = 17,887 estimated PRs who left Singapore?).

Of course, there may need to be a small adjustment to the figures, because some of the new babies and deaths may be PRs.

Depending on the adjustments to the data, because the statistics are not broken down into Singaporeans and PRs, if this approximate figure is correct, then, it may indicate that the number of Singaporeans migrating may be more than the number of new babies and deaths. Will the Singaporean population shrink, if this apparent trend continues?

This matter may also tally with Senior Minister, Goh Chok Tong’s recent call for us to address three main challenges, one of which is the need to integrate the 70,000 plus new citizens and PRs, and make them feel at home in Singapore.

Why is it that as I understand it, emigration statistics of Singaporeans are not published on a regular basis ?

Why do ordinary citizens like me have to guess the numbers? Shouldn’t they be available and published regularly?

How many MPs have ever asked this question in Parliament?

As I am just an ordinary citizen, and not a statistician, economist, analyst or academic, can the experts please help to advise as to whether my estimate is correct, close or far off the mark?

With regards to the ‘Resident Population’, the population increase was 55,000, ‘Natural Increase’ was 22,358, and ‘Migration Increase’ was 32,642, in 2006.

So, does it mean that about 52,313 (55,000 population increase – 22,358 natural increase + 19,671 emigration) of the resident population 55,000 increase, was due to foreigners becoming PRs ?

If this is the case, does it mean that about 95 per cent (52,313 divided by 55,000) of the resident population increase was due to foreigners becoming PRs ?

To What extent has the continuing decline in the procreation rate been due to the change in the income tax rebates on 1 January 2004, reducing the old $ 20,000 Special Tax Rebate for mothers below age 31 for the second child, to just $ 10,000 under the new Parenthood Tax Rebate ?

The ‘Future Resident Labour Force According to Medium Projection, 2005 – 2050’, is projected to increase from the current (2005) 1,747,806 to 1,764,527 in 2010, and then gradually decline to only 1,148,032 in 2050.

Part Two of this article will be published next week.


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