Is the Singaporean population shrinking? – Part 2

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to Stephanie Lim Pek Hsia’s letter “Cap number of foreign workers they can hire” (New Paper, Nov 10), and media reports about the record jump in the number of new PRs, PRs becoming citizens and foreigners this year.

About 7,300 Singapore citizenships were granted in the first half of this year, and 46,900 foreigners were granted PR status in the first nine months of this year.

Using the above and data from the “Population Trends 2007” (PT2007) report released by the Department of Statistics on 27 September 2007, the number of foreigners is estimated to exceed the number of residents (Singaporeans and PRs) in about eleven years’ time in 2018, and the number of foreigners and PRs may exceed citizens in about eight years’ time in 2015, at the current rate of population growth.

The rapidly growing population may place an increasing strain on our infrastructure, facilities and services, and as has been called for by some Members of Parliament (MPs) in parliament, a breaking down of the statistics for the population routinely as a matter of course rather than on an ad-hoc basis, and employment data into citizens and PRs, may help to facilitate policy analysis, decision-making and review.

Are there other countries in the world that do not distinquish between citizens and PRs in their statistics?

Former Permanent Secretary Ngiam Tong Dow said in his interview with the latest PAP Petir Newsletter that “managing the population is the main challenge facing Singapore, if we do it wrongly, it will change our economic and social system”.

In this connection, Malaysia‘s Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, said on 9 November at the 58th UMNO general assembly, that “dependence on foreigners, who number two million, could not continue because it was counter-productive, as most foreign workers are unskilled labour who do not contribute towards nation-building”.

Singapore‘s foreign worker population is about 16 per cent of the total population, compared to Malaysia‘s 8 per cent, and about 85 per cent of foreign workers here are unskilled work permit holders.

The new citizens and PRs add to a pool of Singapore residents whose number stands at 3.68 million as of June. This is out of a total population of 4.68 million. The remaining one million foreigners include 756,000 who are working. There are 110,000 here on an Employment Pass or S-Pass and 646,000 on Work Permits.

The biggest change was seen in the number of PRs, which quadrupled from about 112,000 to more than 460,000 last year.

There are now more than 460,000 Permanent Residents living in Singapore, making up 10 percent of the population.

The number of non-residents who are working, studying or living here have also gone up. They number 875,500 last year, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the population.

Singapore citizens now account for 70.2 percent of the population, down from 86 percent in 1990.

I estimate that the number of PRs is now 506,900, which is about 11 per cent of the population, a rise of about one per cent compared to the end of last year. Similarly, I estimate the number of foreigners to be about 21 per cent of the total population.

What is perhaps significant is that the number of PRs and foreigners grew by a phenomenal 10 and 14 per cent respectively over just the last nine and six months respectively from the end of last year to September and June this year respectively. If this trend continues, on an annualised basis, the increase for PRs and foreigners may be about 13 and 28 per cent for the whole of this year.

What may be perhaps even more alarming is that since there are only 110,000 on an Employment Pass or S-Pass, does it mean that at this rate of conversion of foreigners to PRs, an estimated 62,533 or about 50 per cent of the eligible foreigners (Employment Pass and S-Pass, excluding Work Permits) may become PRs?

Without the break-down in the statistics, we can only speculate, using the current year’s available statistics and last year’s 57,300 who became PRs without knowing how many of the 875,000 foreigners as at the end of last year were on Employment Pass, S-Pass and Work Permits, or for that matter the breakdown at the beginning of last year.

In the light of the continuing debate on the Longevity Insurance (LI) scheme, and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s recent call for flexibility in the LI to allow people to choose to start the annuity earlier at age 80, let’s examine the latest “Population Trends 2007” report released by the Department of Statistics on 27 September, 2007.

The resident (Singaporeans and PRs) population registered a growth rate of 1.8 per cent in 2007. The non-resident population grew by 14.9 per cent in 2007.

The “Expectation of Life” at age 85 is 4.7 years, and at age 55 is 26.8 years.

This means that for those who have to purchase the Longevity Insurance at age 55, half would have died by age 82. For those who are alive at age 85 to start collecting the life annuity, half would have died by age 90.

The “Resident Age-Sex Specific Death Rate” is 5.2 and 102.2 for the Age Groups 55 – 59 and 85 and over, respectively.

This means that your chances of dying every year is 0.5 per cent from age 55 to 59, and 12 per cent from age 85. Every year, from age 85, 102 out of 1,000 people will die, and this figure increases every year.

Read Part 1 of this article here