Population projected at 6.9 million by 2030 with strong Singaporean core

Imelda Saad, Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 29 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: Singapore's population could hit 6.9 million in 2030 - up from the current 5.3 million - if strategies outlined in the White Paper on Population to mitigate the country's ageing and shrinking population are met.

The population projection also takes into account a lower GDP growth rate beyond 2020.

The White Paper on Population, released on Tuesday, is the first comprehensive report to outline the country's strategy to ensure a sustainable population.

The numbers are grim -- by 2025, Singapore's citizen population size will start to decline.

Between now and 2030, over 900,000 baby boomers will retire from the workforce -- that is more than a quarter of Singapore citizens.

At the same time, Singapore's fertility rate has been falling. For the past 30 years, the total fertility rate (TFR) has been below the replacement level of 2.1.

Last year, the TFR was about 1.3, according to preliminary figures.

By 2030, more people will exit than enter the workforce. By 2050, there will be more people above the age of 50 than younger Singaporeans.

It is an outlook that has prompted the government to say it needs to act now, before it is too late.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "This White Paper is the first time the government has set out a comprehensive population roadmap to strike the best balance in our population policies."

At the heart of the White Paper's strategy lies 3 principles -- maintain a strong Singaporean core, create good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans, and have a high quality living environment.

Strategies to maintain the Singaporean core by encouraging marriage and procreation were released a week ago. But it will be a challenge for Singaporeans to replace themselves.

The proposal is to take in 30,000 new permanent residents (PRs) every year, which will keep the PR population stable at 0.5 to 0.6 million. From this pool, take in 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens each year to stop the citizen population from shrinking.

At this rate, by 2030, Singapore's resident population, made up of citizens and PRs will hit about 4.4 million.

Non-residents, making up mostly of transient workers, will hit 2.5 million -- up by about a million from the number today.

This will bring the total population numbers to between 6.5 and 6.9 million, by 2030.

Mr Teo said: "Going forward, we want to make sure that the roadmap that we have is an appropriate one, and if we focus on those key issues, making sure that we have enough young Singaporeans, a population structure that can provide for our seniors.

"Second, that we have an economic structure that will provide for good jobs that an increasingly better educated Singaporean population wants. And we can provide a high quality living environment.

"I think if we can do these three, then we look at the population number and the population we need to achieve these three objectives and that's the way we looked at it.

"So the growth rate of both the workforce and the population will be half to a third of what it has been in the last three decades, and we have to strike a fine balance because if we don't grow at all, or shrink, then we'll face all the problems of an ageing population, the lack of dynamism in the economy which some of you are concerned about.

"But if we grow too quickly, then we may go beyond the constraints we have. So we've been trying to find the appropriate balance."

The population projections are based on certain assumptions -- that the stretched productivity target of between 2 and 3 per cent for this decade is further moderated to between 1 and 2 per cent between 2020 and 2030; and a workforce growth rate that dips from the 3.3 per cent growth over the last three decades, to just 1 per cent between 2020 and 2030.

At those numbers, the country's GDP growth beyond 2020 will likely fall to between 2 and 3 per cent a year, from the current 3 to 5 per cent projection for this decade.

But the country's leaders stress that lower growth does not necessarily mean lower quality growth.

Mr Teo said the aim is for high quality productivity-driven growth that will create an economy that will provide better jobs for Singaporeans.

While the government is playing catch up now to ramp up infrastructure to support the current population, moving forward, the government said it will build ahead.

It also addressed concerns that Singapore may one day become congested like Hong Kong.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said: "Hong Kong in terms of density is much higher, and we must never try to reach that area -- whether in terms of household size, or in terms of crowdedness, or in terms of lacking in greenery and of course the other aspects of population, etc.

"I think we are far away from that and I think we have to keep it that way. I think whatever we do we are quite clear, keep quality of living high.

"In fact, good urban planning to achieve high quality of living is a top priority for the government because this is a key to our survival." Mr Khaw added that Singapore is unlike other cities which have hinterlands.

Long-term planning beyond 2020 includes setting aside land to build 700,000 more homes and doubling the rail network.

The White Paper on Population is the result of almost a year-long public consultation where the government received close to 2,500 responses.

The issues will be debated in Parliament in February.

- CNA/ck/sf/al

Infrastructure development to keep pace with population growth
Sharon See Channel NewsAsia 29 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE: The government is planning to build 700,000 new homes by 2030.

That is one of the long-term plans to support the projected increase in population which is expected to hit 6.9 million in about 20 years.

Some Singaporeans have observed that population growth in Singapore has outpaced infrastructure development in the last five years.

The government is now planning and investing in advance to accommodate a larger population.

Beyond just relieving strains on public transport and housing today are long-term plans to ramp up infrastructure developments to support a population of up to six million in 2020 and then a population of up to 6.9 million in 2030.

There are already plans to add 800 buses over five years, and by 2030, to double of the rail network to 360 kilometres.

This means the addition of three new MRT lines and an extension of two existing lines over the next nine years.

Come 2030, there will be another two new lines and three extensions, allowing eight in 10 homes to be within a 10-minute walk from a train station.

To further alleviate the strain on public transport, more jobs will be located near residential areas, reducing the need to commute.

The White Paper has named Woodlands, Serangoon and Punggol as possible growth areas to create more space for businesses. It also said the Jurong Lake District, Paya Lebar Central and One-North will be expected to mature by then.

More healthcare facilities are also in the pipeline with three general hospitals, five community hospitals and two medical centres set to open between 2014 and 2020.

On the way too are 200,000 new homes which will be ready by 2016.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said even more land has been set aside to build another 500,000 homes until 2030.

Mr Khaw is confident his ministry will be able to resolve the housing shortage and assured Singaporeans that there will be enough homes.

For first timers who had difficulty applying for a new flat, Mr Khaw said this problem has been largely resolved.

Mr Khaw explained: "There is some mismatch because of our balloting system. If you look at the figure, (there are about 15,000) new family formations every year but I'm building 25,000 new units a year and we have been doing so. This is into the third year now."

Possible sites for these new homes include new towns in Bidadari, Tampines North and Tengah but some will also be built in mature estates, allowing children to stay close to their parents.

"Wherever there are possible sites for development, we have to do so. And that's why sometimes it is a bit painful for us to have to remove some trees which I know many people are upset about. We are equally upset because I love trees… but sometimes it can't be helped because of larger objectives, larger benefits," he said.

Mr Khaw added that good urban planning to achieve a high quality of living is a top priority for the government.

There will be more green spaces and parks, and by 2030, at least 85 per cent of Singapore's households will live within 400 metres of a park.

The National Development Ministry is expected to release more details on land use plans this week.

- CNA/fa

Steps needed to convince S’poreans about population increase

Ashley Chia and Neo Chai Chin Today Online 30 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE — Judging from the immediate reaction to the Population White Paper soon after its release, the Government looks to have its work cut out to convince some Singaporeans that the nation can cope with 6.5 to 6.9 million people on the island.

Members of Parliament (MPs) TODAY spoke to acknowledged that steps have to be taken— including making sure the policies set in motion bear fruit — before Singaporeans can accept the increase in population.

Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah said: “It is not easy to convince (Singaporeans) because people will think that ‘every day I go to work, (it) is already so crowded’.”

She added: “No point talking to them about all these theories ... If you don’t help them to see, resolve the current problem, they won’t be convinced. My suggestion is that you have to resolve the current problem first.”

Some netizens felt the numbers were “frightening”, others noted that infrastructure today has yet to catch up with demand. An overseas Singaporean even wrote that he would stay away and not return to the Republic. Amid the chorus of doubters were some netizens who viewed the White Paper more positively, with one pointing out the need for a sufficient base of working-age people to support the growing ageing population.

Social and policy researchers suggested specifying the types of skills needed from foreigners and beefing up Singaporeans’ sense of security to get the public behind the new population projections.

Policymakers could spell out the areas or sectors where immigrants were needed, as is the practice in some other countries, said Institute of Policy Studies Senior Research Fellow Leong Chan-Hoong. “They may say, if you are an expert in biomedical science or if you are an expert in IT, the chances of getting a long-term residential visa or permanent residency will be much higher than someone else (without such skill sets).

“That kind of transparency and information will be more reassuring and helpful,” said Dr Leong, who added that resentment is generally of the policy towards foreigners, and not the foreigners themselves.

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser said the social and psychological barriers would be harder to overcome than physical barriers when it comes to a higher population density. The “fundamental solution” lies in strengthening Singaporeans’ sense of security, which can lead to more generosity of spirit towards new immigrants and foreigners in our midst, he said.

On some Singaporeans’ resistance to more new immigrants, Ms Lee noted: “If Singaporeans can give birth to more children then, of course, we don’t have to bring in foreigners — that will be the most ideal.”

But she noted that with the dismal birth rates, it would be ambitious to think that they could be raised to such a level that Singapore will need fewer new immigrants in the future.

Now that the White Paper — nearly a year in the making — is out, Chua Chu Kang MP Zaqy Mohamad reckons it is time for more engagement: For Singaporeans to seek reassurance and ask questions, and for the Government to communicate its planning considerations. This way, a consensus can be forged and citizens can be assured that they would not be disadvantaged.

He said: “It has to be a process which the Government has to undertake in terms of helping (Singaporeans) understand the considerations ... Perhaps through the various dialogue platforms … we try to get some consensus.”

Singapore population to be half-foreign by 2030: govt
(AFP) Google News 30 Jan 13;

SINGAPORE — Foreigners could make up nearly half of Singapore's population by 2030, the government said Tuesday as it unveiled its politically sensitive projection for a city of up to seven million boosted by young immigrants.

In a white (policy) paper on population, the government said Singaporeans' flagging birth rates -- which have been below replacement levels for more than three decades -- necessitated immigration into the prosperous Southeast Asian nation.

The paper, released by the National Population and Talent Division, said the total population could range between 6.5 and 6.9 million by 2030.

Foreigners would make up nearly half the population by then, with the proportion of Singaporean citizens projected to fall to 55 percent, from 62 percent as of June 2012 when the population was 5.31 million.

The projection sparked furious online reactions from citizens, with some saying it was time to emigrate.

"This white paper from the government is a betrayal to local born Singaporean(s)," posted Mc Lee on the website of the Straits Times.

"It's hard to call a place home when you got no space & getting out & about is a constant death match," stated keenlen on Twitter.

"I guess migration plans for Singaporeans should begin soon. Singapore is slowly losing its nationality," Shane Goh tweeted.

Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.20 children per woman last year is far below the 2.1 needed to sustain the native population, and has been so for more than three decades.

"We do not expect our TFR to improve to the replacement rate of 2.1 in the short term," the paper said.

"Taking in younger immigrants will help us top up the smaller cohorts of younger Singaporeans, and balance the ageing of our citizen population," it added.

"To stop our citizen population from shrinking, we will take in between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year," it stated, adding that the immigration rate would be reviewed "from time to time".

Immigration has been a politically sensitive issue for the government, which has in recent years widened the door for foreigners to sustain the economy.

But their numbers were reduced following a social backlash, with foreigners blamed for problems including overcrowding, straining public services and driving up housing costs.

The study said the government would take steps such as expanding transport networks and building more public housing to support the increase in population.

Singapore this month also announced increased cash bonuses for parents of newborn babies and introduced paternity leave as part of a package of measures to boost the local population.

Related links
The Population White Paper can be read online at http://www.population.sg/

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