Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On Singaporean population trends

The latest Singaporean census has revealed that immigration is driving sharp population growth in the island city-state.

Singapore's population has grown to almost 5 million and a quarter of that is foreign workers, whose influx has sparked concerns among its citizens about competition for jobs and living standards.

The non-resident population in the financial and shipping hub, from Swiss bankers to Filipino maids, climbed nearly five percent in 2009, following on from two years of even stronger growth when booming Asian markets attracted workers.

The government's annual population report said the number of foreigners getting permanent residency status also surged more than 11 percent in 2009. Foreign workers looking to avoid having to leave the city-state after losing their jobs could account for part of that increase, analysts say.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier this month the government will restrict the flow of foreign workers after the global economic recession hit Singapore's growth, while still recognising the city-state still needs foreigners.

"For a small country like Singapore, acquiring and nurturing human talent is a matter of survival," Lee said in a speech on Tuesday at a conference on human capital. The government has said it wants to raise long-term economic growth by increasing the population by 35 percent over the next 40-50 years through immigration, a policy that has drawn plenty of criticism from Singaporeans, themselves mostly immigrants from China, India and Southeast Asia in the past two centuries.

Ethnically and linguistically diverse, the Singaporean population has continued to grow, despite a very sharp fall in birth rates, thanks to immigration. Interestingly, the author notes that fertility rates by ethnic group diverge in Singapore roughly the same way as in Malaysia, a subject that I blogged about last month.

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