Singapore’s population grows 1.3% to 5.6 million

Singapore’s population grows 1.3% to 5.6 million
A breakdown of Singapore's population as of June 2016. Photo: National Population and Talent Division
Rising numbers come as 33,725 S’porean babies born last year, the highest in more than 10 years
Published: 4:03 PM, September 27, 2016
Updated: 7:35 AM, September 28, 2016

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s population grew 1.3 per cent to reach 5.6 million as of June, amid a spike in the number of births last year, while the citizen population continues to age, the annual population brief released on Thursday (Sept 27) by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) showed.

And despite the slowing economy, foreign employment growth increased by 27,000 from June last year to June this year, reversing the declining trend since 2011-2012 — from 77,000 that year, the figure moderated to 60,000, 33,000, then 23,000.

Analysts said this phenomenon was not unseen in other countries, and could be due to Singaporeans not taking up jobs in some industries, such as those that are labour-intensive.

The number of non-residents grew by 2.5 per cent to 1.67 million, mainly foreigners working here and their families, as well as international students. There was stronger growth in the number of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) and dependents of Singaporeans who are on Long-Term Visit Passes.

“The increase in FDW population growth reflects Singaporeans’ rising desire to augment their own care for their children and elderly,” said the NPTD.

There were 33,725 Singaporean babies born last year, the highest number in more than 10 years.

Nevertheless, the proportion of citizens aged 65 and above continued to grow, from 13.1 per cent in June last year to 13.7 per cent this June. The figure was 10.1 per cent in 2010.

“With increasing life expectancy and low fertility rates, our citizen population is ageing quickly,” said the NPTD. “There has been a significant increase in the number of citizens aged 65 years and above in the past decade, with more of our ‘post-war baby boomers’ entering their silver years.”

Sociologists cautioned against over-reliance on FDWs for the care of their elderly loved ones, given that these workers are “not particularly well-trained or equipped to handle (their) specific needs”, said Mr Christopher Gee, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies.

“This may be compounded if the eldercare responsibilities are combined with general household chores as well”, he added.

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser added that apart from FDWs, Singaporeans could tap on other resources to look after the elderly, such as by mobilising their relatives or neighbours, or turning to daycare centres and the use of monitoring technology.

But Mrs Samantha Chung, 36, who has two domestic helpers at home, said she needs them to help look after her two young children.

“We are also not able to tap on our parents for help because my parents are helping to look after my nephew, while my husband’s mother is getting on in age,” said Mrs Chung, who works in the media industry.

“The only way in which I can see us having only one helper in the near term (perhaps for another two years) is if either my husband or I become a stay-at-home-parent or if we change to jobs with more family-friendly working hours,” she added.

The old issue of Singaporeans shunning certain jobs could explain the increase in foreign employment growth, said economists.

Noting that Singapore is an ageing society, CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun also pointed out that there is a demand for workers in the healthcare sector. “It is still a sector which continues to face shortage (of manpower) so therefore (these jobs have) to be (taken by) foreign professionals,” he said.

SIM University senior lecturer Walter Theseira pointed out that research from other cities shows that immigrants — foreign and domestic — also take up a substantial amount of employment relative to “locals”, even when the economy is not doing well.

“For example, when considering a global city such as London, migration can be from both external to the UK as well as ... from other British cities,” he said. “Singapore has no hinterland and so all economic migrants are foreign.”

Dr Theseira added that some jobs are “relatively undesirable” to Singaporeans or require specialised skills that few Singaporean jobseekers have.

“In such a case, refusing to hire the best qualified foreign applicant may make Singaporeans worse off, overall,” he said.