It is not too complicated. The fertility rate of Singapore is very low. Our population is starting to grow old, grey and shrink unless we accept some level of immigration. With an ageing or shrinking population, our economy will shrink - there will be fewer opportunities for all. The govt understands the problems faced by Singaporeans in the form of competition for schools and various integration and play its part to mitigate these problems. The govt will moderate the immigration numbers. It has done plenty and will do more to improve fertility, it will do more to improve productivity. mobilize our resident labor resources like women and encouraging people to work longer. Yes, the govt would like very much to hear your feedback at www.population.sg or via email email@example.com.
It is one of those issues where the govt explains why something is needed, says it understands your concern and will have measures to address it and proclaim their approach will lead to opportunities and benefits for Singaporeans. The last time an issue was discussed in this manner was the casinos - casinos (IRs) will create jobs, the govt will contain the ill effects and Singaporeans will be overall better off.
In the past the govt has put forth many other reasons for the foreign influx - businesses find it hard to get Singapore workers, there are jobs Singaporeans won't take, there are skills we cannot find among Singaporeans. It is problematic to use these reasons justify the large influx and does not explain why foreigners are imported for jobs that Singaporeans also do and no employer is required to show proof that he cannot get a Singaporean to do the job when reasonable wages are paid. Maybe this is why the govt has chosen to use the low fertility rate of Singaporeans as a justification for importing more people.
"There will be a smaller base of working-age citizens as our citizen population
and workforce will age and decline. This is a significant demographic challenge facing Singapore ." - Issues Paper, July 2012[Link].
The thing you have to understand is any baby shortfall today can only be addressed by importing a baby today or an adult 20-30 years from now. Our current low fertility rate does not drive the need for adult immigrants today. It is our fertility rate of 1970s-early 1990s. that created the workforce demographics of today.
You need to maintain 2.1 to have stable workforce demographics. Our workforce today consists mainly of people born in 1970s to 1990s with some unfortunate souls born in the 1940s still working in their 70s because they cannot afford to retire. If we import adult workers to maintain the workforce demographics, and make up for the shortfall in this period, we are talking about expanding the resident workforce by 5-10 thousand a year. This is not what happened:
The main reason for the large influx is to generate economic growth by expanding the workforce and to meet the demands of employers who do not want to pay higher wages to hire Singaporeans. This large influx has several effects one of them is wealth transfer from lower paid wage earners to employers/corporations i.e. rising income gap. It also caused the population density to surge up and housing prices + cost of living to surge up and these may have caused the TFR to drop to the lowest in the world .Macau and Hong Kong are right there with us and these are also the most densely populated regions in the world. The low fertility rate is made worse by the foreign influx is now used to justify more immigration!
Through this huge influx, the PAP govt created a bigger ageing population in 2050 when this large group of new citizens + PRs retire and age at the same time.
If the PAP had imported people primarily to make up for below-replacement fertility rate in the period of 1970-1990s, the numbers should be smaller and we and would not have so many problems.
Scenario 2 - TFR at 1.24, 30K immigrants.
Scenario 3 - TFR at 1.24, 60K immigrants.
Scenario 4 - TFR at 1,85, zero immigration.
Even with TFR rising to 1.85, without immigrants our population will peak at 2030. The reason for this is the baby boomers of 1950s and 1960s when the TFR was above 6 will start to leave this world in large numbers after 2030. It is not clear that as a society we want to fix this one-off phenomena by importing people, To stop the population from declining we have to allow 20-30K of immigrants per year if TFR hovers around 1 - no argument about this.
For many countries, when the TFR falls, they don't resort to importing people so quickly because there is a time lag effect - they have to import babies or adults 25 years later. Singapore in the last 10 years has grown its population at the fastest rate in its history by importing new citizens and PRs does not need any more immigrants for the next 5-10 years to compensate for low fertility. If we have been importing 30K residents per year since we would have hit 4M residents in 2020(see image above). But we have imported up to 100K residents per year and have already reached 3.79 (Sep. 2011)and we can reach 4M in 2020 even if we do not import anymore residents (30K births a yr x 8 years = 0.24M). Our immigration rate of the last 10 years has over-compensated for low birth rate and we can stop the influx now to find a solution for low TFR in the next 8 years.
The reason why the influx is not going to stop is largely economic. The PAP govt expands the workforce and population to keep the economy growing - it has nothing to do with fertility otherwise the numbers would be much smaller. This is the path of least ideological resistance for the PAP - it believes as an article of faith that so long as the economy is growing and businesses thrive, all other problems can be solved. . All it needs to do is persuade, the people to accept the large influx is necessary by inventing a reason to do what it wants.
30-40 years ago, your parents were told not to have more children because the PAP was convinced that Singapore's limited land and economy cannot create jobs for so many people. The PAP was so convinced it was right and listened to nobody - your mother protested those harsh measures to punish those who had more children and it turned out that the fears that the economy would not grow fast enough to create sufficient number of jobs and fears that the population was growing too fast were all unfounded. The PAP policy to reduce birth rates caused a workforce bottle neck and the PAP imported people to fill the gap. 30 years ago, our leaders thought 3M people was too many for Singapore and today the PAP thinks that 5.3M is too few and they want more.
Singaporeans have enough of the govt trying to justify more immigrants when so many problems from the large influx of the last 10 years have remained unsolved and it is not necessary in the coming years to continue with the policy because we have already over compensated for low fertility, that is if they sincerely believe that low fertility is a legitimate reason not an excuse for more immigration.
Singaporeans want the govt to go to the root of the low fertility problem and solve it. The govt effort in this area has been discriminatory, ineffective and unsuccessful:
- Large part of the incentives are given out as tax rebate benefits only higher income earners and not lower income Singaporeans who do not earn enough to claim those rebates. Any primary school kid will tell you that giving money to someone who already has plenty is less of an incentive than giving it to someone who needs it to help them support their children.
- Take the HOPE scheme as another example. It is meant to help poorer families with children's education and housing. However, families only qualify for aid if they have only one or 2 children - they get nothing if they have more children. Doesn't a family with 3 children need more help? How does denying help to families with 3 or more children lead to better outcomes for them? This help scheme is hijacked for the purpose of social engineering to discourage certain groups from having more children. With such a low TFR how are we going to succeed if we don't get everyone to chip in and have more children.
- When a low income man marries, he faces numerous hurdles put in by the govt to discourage him from getting married and having children. If he has a foreign wife, his wife cannot get PRs even after the family is formed and they have Singaporean children - we give thousands of citizenships and grant so many PRs but we have policies that directly hurt Singaporeans who have served their NS simply because they are poor, want to start a family.and support their children[Link]. Some of these people are poor as result of the PAP's immigration policy - foreign 3rd world labor brought in to compete against these Singaporeans causing their incomes to stagnate or fall.
Once you accept immigration as a solution for low fertility, the usual pattern of PAP style leadership behavior will take hold. They will latch on the solution and use it for other purposes such as expanding workforce to grow the economy. It will become less important to encourage Singaporeans to have more children and efforts in this area will be stagnate. Solve the problems cause by the massive influx of the last 10 years and put in more effort to raise the TFR before trying to get Singaporeans to accept more immigration. The low TFR can be linked to problems caused by high influx of immigrants e.g. rising cost of living especially housing. Using one of the causes of the problem to solve the problem just doesn't make a good solution.