Population likely ‘significantly’ below 6.9 million by 2030: Josephine Teo

LOUISA TANG Today Online 1 Mar 18;

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s total population is likely to be below 6 million by 2020, and “significantly” below 6.9 million by 2030, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Josephine Teo on Thursday (March 1) in Parliament.

The number of working-age Singaporeans (aged 20 to 64) is expected to peak at 2.2 million around 2020 and decline thereafter.

Immigrants are needed to prevent the population from shrinking in the long term, said Mrs Teo, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), at the Committee of Supply debate for the Prime Minister’s Office.

At current rates of immigration, Singapore is “close to achieving the same effect as if we had full-replacement Total Fertility Rate (TFR, of 2.1)”, she said. “Therefore, we do not expect any major changes to our immigration policy presently.”

As of June last year, the population of 5.61 million included 3.44 million citizens and 527,000 permanent residents, according to the Department of Statistics. Mrs Teo said 22,076 citizenships and 31,849 permanent residencies were granted last year.

The NPTD had said in the population White Paper in Jan 2013 that the Republic’s total population could range between 5.8 million and 6 million by 2020, and 6.5 million to 6.9 million by 2030. The 6.9 million figure sparked a public outcry and the Government said it was a not a forecast or target, but for planning purposes.

Today, total population growth has slowed considerably to 1 per cent per year over the last five years, compared to 3 per cent every year for the five years before that, said Mrs Teo.

Revealing that last year’s TFR fell to a 1.16 – the lowest since the rate of 1.15 in 2010 – after hovering around 1.2 in recent years, she explained the “apparent contradiction”, given the higher number of births in recent years.

Many children of baby boomers are about 20 to 30 years old today and are included in the denominator used to calculate the TFR. But compared to earlier cohorts, more of them are not yet married or have not started having children.

“When they do, we can expect the numerator, which is the number of births to increase further. TFR could then also increase,” said Mrs Teo.

Workforce growth will slow to about 1 to 2 per cent every year from now till 2020 – significantly less than in the past but “a more sustainable pace going forward”, she said.

The Government will continue to support higher participation in the labour force among Singaporeans, and “balance these efforts with a calibrated flow of foreign workers that complements our local workforce”.

“We are selective about the profile of our immigrants, because it affects how we grow a strong national identity,” Mrs Teo said. “This is why we prioritise not only those who can contribute, but those who are also prepared to sink roots in Singapore, and can integrate well here.”

The Government is also working on strengthening integration, she added. One in three marriages today are between a Singaporean and non-Singaporean.

Over the past three years, the National Integration Council has supported more than 320 ground-up integration projects by 150 organisations that encourage immigrants and locals to bond over interests such as sports and volunteerism.