Singapore has maintained a calibrated approach to immigration, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu said yesterday.
Last year, 20,348 people were granted Singapore citizenship, and 29,854 became Permanent Residents (PRs), with the PR population remaining stable at 0.53 million, she added, giving an update on the latest population figures during the debate on the Prime Minister's Office budget.
There were also 33,000 citizen births, up from 31,000 in 2013; the birth rate rose to 1.25 from 1.19 the year before; and there were 24,000 marriages involving at least one citizen, the highest since 1997.
"Overall, our immigrants help to prevent our citizen population from shrinking," Ms Fu said.
The country's overall population growth rate of 1.3 per cent last year was the slowest in a decade, in line with proposals in the 2013 Population White Paper.
"We remain on track for slower and more sustainable population growth," said Ms Fu.
MPs Jessica Tan (East Coast GRC) and Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) spoke about the need for a sustainable population with a strong Singaporean core.
Ms Fu said last year's low population growth rate was the result of measures taken to moderate foreign workforce growth.
Supporting marriage and parenthood remains a priority. But the country also had to stay open to foreigners, as they plug gaps, offer ideas to kickstart new sectors, and bring skills that enrich the workforce, she added.
"The result is a more flexible and competitive workforce which is responsive to the shifting global business environment," she said.
Several MPs, including Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Ms Ellen Lee (Sembawang GRC), wanted to know how Singapore could remain cohesive as the population becomes more diverse.
Ms Fu said newcomers had to "adapt to and respect our way of life". But Singaporeans had to play a role in reaching out to them too. "There are signs that we are making progress," she added.
Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC) asked how the Government plans to attract Malay talents to maintain the balance between the main races. Ms Fu said Singapore will continue to welcome immigrants of all ethnicities, including Malays, willing to contribute.
She added that integration efforts between citizens and newcomers will also be strengthened.
"We will continue to grow and strengthen the Singaporean core in the workforce," she said, adding that overseas Singaporeans are also part of this core. "We keep in touch with them, so that they maintain ties back home, and remain committed to Singapore's shared future."
This article was first published on March 11, 2015.
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