Govt to study ideal population size

THE Government will be reviewing its plans for developing a sustainable population, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

To be conducted by the National Population and Talent Division of the Prime Minister's Office, the review will examine current population goals and policies.

The division will work with other agencies, stakeholders and members of the public to discuss issues, such as the size and composition of the population, through dialogues and online channels.

Inputs from these discussions will be incorporated into a White Paper that will be released by the end of the year.

Mr Teo was responding to queries by several Members of Parliament about Singapore's ideal population size, given the country's limited land and the rapid population growth from immigration.

Mr Teo said the most critical long-term issue is to "develop a sustainable population strategy that will maintain the vitality of Singapore, strengthen our harmonious multi-ethnic society, and enable Singaporeans to achieve their life aspirations".

He hopes to develop "a shared understanding of our strategies to build a sustainable population that secures Singapore's future".

He added that one of the Government's procreation initiatives - the Child Development Account - will be enhanced.

Set up in 2001, this is a special account for each child in which parents' savings will be matched dollar for dollar by the Government, up to a cap of $6,000 to $18,000, depending on the birth order of the child.

The money can be used to pay the fees at approved institutions registered with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. They include childcare centres, kindergartens, early-intervention and special-education institutions.

Currently, the account will stay open till the end of the child's sixth year. From Jan 1 next year, this duration will be extended till the end of the child's 12th year.

From July 1 this year, the money can also be used for a broader range of approved institutions, such as licensed pharmacies, optical shops and providers of devices like hearing or visual aids.

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) also proposed yesterday to make paternity leave mandatory so as to encourage marriage and parenthood.

Mr Teo said the proposal will be studied, but "perhaps not this year but in the future".

He also touched on the "twin effects" of low fertility and an ageing population.

There are now about seven working citizens, aged 15 to 64, to each citizen aged 65 and above. In contrast, there will be only 2.3 working-age citizens to each senior citizen by 2030.

Singapore will also experience "an unprecedented age shift" from now to 2030, as over 900,000 baby boomers born between 1947 and 1965 retire and become senior citizens, Mr Teo added.

Without immigration, Singapore will face the prospect of a shrinking workforce and economy, he said.


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