The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) just released its Population in Brief report for the year.
In a nutshell, Singapore’s population hit 5.61 million in June 2016.
The not so good news? The number of foreigners (non-residents + permanent residents) now make up a whopping 64 percent of the population.
Statistics in Brief
Number of citizens: 3.41 million
Number of non-residents: 1.67 million
Number of permanent residents: 0.52 million
Should we panic now? Before we hyperventilate, here are some things to consider.
Countries with similar foreigner-citizen ratios are all small, micro-states that rely heavily on foreign labour and trade to survive.
A quick look at 2015 UN population statistics shows eight other states that have similarly high or higher foreigner-citizen ratios.
They are Macau (59%), the Virgin Islands (59%), Sin Maarten (60%), Falkland Islands (62%), Monaco (64%), Samoa (71%), United Arab Emirates (71%) and Vatican City (100%).
Fact is, like these eight other states, Singapore is small and geographically limited. We need to import virtually everything – all our food, even our water, and our foreign labourers too.
Is this an excuse to import as many foreigners as we like? Not really. But if we tweak the numbers a little and view permanent residents as part of our citizenry (I know we’re on shaky ground here), we would end up with a figure that’s much more comfortable – a 42% foreigner-citizen ratio.
What should we make of this? It really depends on the needs of the economy and how fast the local workforce and population can reproduce itself. Unless we want to end up like Japan, we’d best be making more babies as soon as possible, lest Singaporeans really become a rare breed in our own country.
The growth in the foreigner population in Singapore has slowed.
Even by anecdotal evidence alone, it does seem that the foreign born population has slowed down. Employers are finding it harder to employ foreigners. Many companies are shifting to high tech solutions to beat the labour crunch, or shifting out altogether.
So Singaporeans’ protests against the large influx of foreigners might have been heard and answered. Could we see a stagnation in the foreigner population one day? Perhaps, going by the projections in this chart.
Will that be a good thing for Singapore?
I’m not so sure yet.
Although it seems that we’ve held off the growth in the foreign population, Singaporeans will need to fill the void after these foreigners leave. How do we adjust quickly enough to meet the needs of the future economy without cheap foreign labour?
Can we do it fast enough to keep companies afloat in Singapore, both local and foreign?
Nicholas Yeo is an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore majoring in communications and new media.