Population growth slowest in 9 years

Population growth slowest in 9 years
Pedestrians crossing a road at Shenton Way on Aug 30 2013. Singapore's population grew at its slowest pace in nine years in the 12 months up to June 2013, even as the total fertility rate inched up, according to figures released by the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) on Thursday.

SINGAPORE'S population grew to 5.4 million in June this year, a 1.6 per cent annual increase that is the slowest in nine years.

At the same time, the pool of old folk continues to swell, with one in 10 now 65 and above, according to official figures released on Thursday.

The main reason for the population slowdown is the slower pace of growth in the foreign workforce.

The bulk of the growth came from the construction sector, where foreigners are hired for key infrastructure projects such as housing and transport, the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) said in a statement.

But in the non-construction sectors, growth slowed to about half that of a year ago, with 25,000 hired for the year ending in June this year, against 48,000 for the previous year.

The drop is a result of changes in official rules in recent years, which make it harder for companies to hire foreigners.

Yet more measures were announced earlier this week. These include a higher starting pay for foreign professionals, and companies having to advertise vacancies in a national jobs bank before they can apply to hire a foreigner on an Employment Pass.

As a result of the tightening of the tap, the non-resident population rose by just 4 per cent this year, compared to 7 per cent a year earlier. It reached 1.55 million in June, from 1.49 million a year ago.

Together with the resident population, it lifted Singapore's total population by 1.6 per cent, higher than the 1.3 per cent in 2004.

This new pace of growth still falls within the 1.3 per cent to 1.6 per cent range which the Government used in its controversial Population White Paper that forecast Singapore's population to top 6.9 million by 2030.

MP Liang Eng Hwa said that "at this pace, the growth is more sustainable".

But, he added, "we need to watch the demographic changes closely to see if the workforce will shrink significantly".

MP Inderjit Singh, a strong critic of the White Paper, found comfort in the figures.

"It shows the Government did listen to us when we suggested taking a pause to resolve issues like housing, transportation and hospital beds, before thinking about growing the population," said Mr Singh. "I think that is happening right now."

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