By Sharon Ng
The Population White Paper is an objective and balanced look at the different needs and concerns of the nation, and it forms the roadmap of our nation’s population that is needed to guide future polices of the government.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Monday in the opening debate on the Government’s Population White Paper that the White Paper is drawn up to provide flexibility and to ensure that there will be no bottlenecks and constraints in infrastructure as Singapore moves into the future. This roadmap is critical to Singapore because infrastructure will require a long time to plan and build, and will affect the quality of life of Singaporeans.
DPM Teo said that Singapore is historically an immigrant society, as our forefathers had come from many lands and they had evolved to have shared values. Since most PRs come from similar ethnic backgrounds, he encouraged the integration of these PRs “to be more like us”. He gave the example of how Japan is now an aged country and Unicharm had sold more adult diapers than baby diapers. With the definition of the elderly as a person over 65 years, an aging country is defined as having 7 per cent of the population in this segment, while an aged country has 14 per cent. Extrapolating the population with today’s numbers, Singapore will be “aging” in 2016 and be “aged” by 2031.
At a total fertility rate of 1.2, for every 100 Singaporeans in the current generation, there will be 60 Singaporeans in the next generation, followed by 36 Singaporeans in the third generation. The ratio of working-age citizens for each elderly person will also fall from 5.9 to 2.1 by 2030.
The world is now more globalised as more Singaporeans are working overseas. The White Paper will attempt to slow the brain drain of such talents, as it will hollow out our core Singapore talent pool.
He then examined two other scenarios and why they are unattractive. If there is a freeze on foreign workers, businesses here in Singapore will suffer a manpower crunch. They will then move out of Singapore, and Singaporeans in these companies will lose jobs. EDB has brought $16B SGD in investments in 2012 to generate 18,600 new skilled jobs. Without an attractive workforce to pull in such investments, Singaporean PMETs may not find good jobs to meet their aspirations. The “Business as Usual” scenario will allow unfettered growth of more than 6.9M population that exceeds the country’s physical capacity. Hence, both of these scenarios are highly undesirable.
The White Paper has surveyed more than 2,200 Singaporeans and 2,500 pieces of feedback were collected. All views have been considered, by not all were included in the white paper as they pull in opposite directions.
View the full transcript of DPM Teo Chee Hean’s speech at this link