Desperation in trying to increase population


7 Aug 06

SDP’s comment: After nearly half-a-century of uninterrupted PAP rule, this outcome signals an utter and complete failure of the population-control policy. First in was the Stop-At-Two policy, then came the hare-brained Graduate Mothers Scheme, and now its the the have-more-if-you-can-afford desperate measure coupled with the Foreign Talent Policy. These policies have wreaked untold hardship on the people (the social impact of the foreign recruitment policy may yet prove disastrous for Singaporeans) and yet there is no way that the population can hold the PAP accountable.

Singapore needs to attract foreign migrants to top up the population of the city-state whose birth rate in 2005 remained at an all-time low of 1.24 children per woman, said Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng.

Last year’s birth rate of 1.24, the same as 2004, meant only 35,600 babies were born, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 that Singapore needs in order to replenish its population naturally, he said late Saturday in a speech.

“Our total fertility rate is at a low of 1.24… To replace ourselves, we should have 60,000 births each year,” said Wong.

“For us, the gap is too large to fill with resident births. We have to top up our population and work force with migrants,” he said.

The drive to attract talented foreign migrants was crucial to Singapore’s long-term competitiveness as they would boost the local work force and their contributions would expand the economic pie, Wong said.

“We have to continue to attract global talents and people with skills to augment our work force. We should encourage those who can contribute to settle down here,” he said.

“This is the way to enlarge the economic pie. There will then be more for everyone to share.

“If not, as other countries get more competitive and if we let our workforce diminish, investments will go elsewhere, and there will be less for us to share.”

Singapore has intensified efforts to address the baby shortage in recent years with a raft of measures to encourage married Singaporeans to have more children.

These include longer maternity leave, cash subsidies and a lower levy on hiring foreign maids.

The government has also made efforts to attract talented foreigners to take up citizenship.

Singapore fears a low birth rate will have a long-term economic impact and increase the proportion of elderly citizens relative to those of working age, raising social welfare costs.

The city-state has a population of 3.4 million plus some 800,000 foreign workers and professionals.