Paying the Price of Closing Singapore’s Gates
ST Editor, Warren Fernandez: “So long as we plan and provide the necessary housing, transport, health care and other facilities for these workers in a timely and sustainable fashion, Singapore has no reason to shut its gates. Indeed, as a city-state, it has a huge advantage over other cities such as Jakarta, Bangkok or Beijing in being able to use its national borders to carefully calibrate the flow of workers from abroad. Rejecting this controlled inflow and failing to manage it to greatest effect is a national folly we can ill afford.”
Read the full article.
Integration, Singapore Style: A Mix of Laws and Social Norms
Charlie Hebdo: Freedom of Speech or Respect for other’s Religion. And what does it mean for the Singapore style of integration? Prof Chan Heng Chee says, “…integration is not a condition one can take for granted”.
Continue reading Prof Chan’s article.
Bucking the trend – More babies in more developed countries
It used to be that low birthrates were the destiny of development. With better child survival rates and more career opportunities, people in developed countries were having fewer babies compared to their developing country counterparts.
However, some countries have bucked this trend – France, Sweden, Norway, and more recently Japan.
Read more to find out why.
A two-way street to accommodating immigrants
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo incident, Straits Times Editor Chua Mui Hoong reflects on how we should accommodate immigrants in Singapore.
Accommodating immigrants and new arrivals cuts both ways: immigrants do their part to “fit in”, and locals have the choice to respond with resentment and rejection of the diversity immigrants bring (a la France), or use this chance to embrace little changes which will refresh and advance Singapore society.
Read the full article.
Former Chief Planner Looks Far, Thinks Big
What could our future look like? Former chief planner Dr Liu Thai Ker envisions a Singapore that is a “Megacity” where existing green and heritage spaces are retained, but there is room for more people, as they are spread across five self-contained regional cities.
A 10 million population is controversial, but Dr Liu believes this as a key to long-term urban planning, to ensure that we will not run out of land, and that future needs are more than adequately met.
Facts in Five Minutes: Latest labour market and population trends
Introducing “Facts in Five Minutes”, a new series of posts which captures reports and articles in bite-size portions, to get you up to speed on latest population issues. To kick off the series, here is a round-up of the latest reports, added to the Resources section.
Labour Market Report, Second Quarter 2014
What’s happening in the labour market?
In the first half of 2014, the Ministry of Manpower continued to take steps to raise the quality of our foreign workforce and reduce reliance on foreign labour. This is in line with overall efforts to achieve quality growth driven by productivity improvements.
How is the labour market doing?
- Unemployment rate remained low and stable amid the tight labour market. Seasonally-adjusted citizen unemployment rate was 2.9% in June 2014.
- Total employment growth moderated due to a significant slowdown in foreign employment growth. For the first half of 2014, foreign employment growth more than halved, when compared to the same period in 2013.
Population Trends 2014 and Population in Brief 2014
Why do population trends matter?
Population issues impact various aspects of society and economy, hence it is important to track our population profile closely. Ultimately, we aim to build a sustainable population based on the three pillars of (i) a strong and cohesive society with a strong Singaporean core, (ii) a dynamic and vibrant economy to provide good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans, and (iii) a high quality living environment.
How far have we progressed towards a sustainable population?
- Singapore’s total population was 5.47 million as of June 2014. The total population grew by 1.3% from June 2013 to June 2014, the slowest growth rate in the last ten years.
- The citizen population grew at the same pace as last year to 3.34 million, with citizen births and immigration. The permanent resident population remained stable at 0.53 million.
- Growth of the non-resident population has slowed significantly to 2.9%, compared to 4.0% last year.
Moving forward together with both our heads and our hearts
In PM Lee’s speech “Singapore in Transition – the Next Phase”, he shares three principles for how we can maintain a sense of purpose even as Singapore changes gears. These principles reflect how we can approach our population challenges, for a brighter and more confident future.
In a nutshell:
- Look outwards, not just inwards. This sets our own issues in perspective. Major changes in the Asian landscape are having a big impact on us. Globalisation and technological advances can create and disrupt businesses swiftly.
- Act with both our heads and our hearts. PM cited population policies as a key example where both “heart” and “head” approaches are needed. With “heart”, we give weight to how comfortable people are with the pace of immigration, as it is about a sense of identity and nationhood. With “head”, we keep population inflows moderate and sustainable, to create the jobs needed. This was a balance, for the good of Singapore and to secure our future.
- Take heart from the past and be confident of our future. We remember the lessons of history, so that we learn the hard-won lessons and value what we have painstakingly built. We are confident of the future, as we have the resources, the talent, and the base, to go further and make Singapore truly exceptional.
Job Matching Made Easier
For Singaporeans seeking to find employment, and employers seeking to hire, WDA’s newly-launched Jobs Bank may go some way to resolve their job matching woes.
In line with the Fair Consideration Framework which seeks to change mindsets and workplaces to ensure a level-playing field for Singaporeans, the Jobs Bank was launched on 14 July, and is a free online portal to match Singaporeans to prospective employers, and contribute towards good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans. Something to check out, considering the growing buzz — more than 4,300 employers and 12,900 individuals already registered during the beta version launched in May, and the number of available vacancies has more than doubled to 37,000 in the two weeks since the official launch!
Harnessing Positivity to Change for the Better
In Prof David Chan’s article “Democracy of deeds and voices” (295kb .pdf; Straits Times, 7 Jun 2014), he advocates that “voices and actions solve problems” and that “positivity opens hearts and minds”. In our evolving democracy, it is a combination of deeds and voices that will lead to real improvement in society and people’s quality of life – not just for the people who are helped but also for those who step forward to give voice and take action.
Megatrends such as shifts in the global economy and the rise of disruptive technologies are changing the way people around the world live, work and play. These trends also feed into the complexity of our demographic challenge, impacting how we strengthen our citizen workforce, balance the pros and cons of immigration, and support active and meaningful aging. Public expressions of negative emotions have loomed large. Prof David Chan makes a distinction between public expressions of negative emotions – which is not always a bad thing, and a “negativity mindset” which he describes as “a self-reinforcing confirmatory bias” and “the tendency to seek out, interpret and remember information that confirms existing beliefs, positions or actions which highlight negative attributes of the target.” Such a mindset hinders reflective thinking, locks in negative conclusions, and prevents constructive discussion which is key towards finding solutions to problems.
Keeping pace with change will determine our success as a people and a country. This will involve efforts from everyone including the government, the community and the individual. Prof Chan proposes that people-centric involvement in deeds and voices will help foster a “positivity mindset” over time, and is a resource for Singaporeans to deal with the change challenge, and to adapt to and harness change. Indeed, our society will continue to mature and be a stronger society as our people get involved in the community, contribute with both constructive words and actions, and make a positive impact on the lives of people around them. Equipped with positivity, our citizens will be confident to pursue their aspirations regardless of the circumstances, and empowered to be the change-makers themselves.
Small Stitches, Big Difference
Great video on a former seamstress working at Edwards Lifesciences, an American MNC in Singapore producing replacement heart valves (likewise, careful stitching required). Good to see foreign MNCs taking innovative steps to engage our older workers, creating win-win situations. The jobs created are the kinds Singaporeans look for – good career progression, work benefits, and meaningful!
PM Lee on population issues at the Debate on President’s Address
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about development in population issues during his speech at the Debate on President’s Address on 28 May 2014. Recapping the changes so far, PM Lee said that the inflow of foreign workers per year has almost halved since 2011. This fall in growth is even more significant when excluding construction workers.
But these changes have to be carefully managed. Companies especially SMEs are feeling the pain. If firms cannot survive, many Singaporean jobs will be at risk. To help firms adapt to the new environment, the government has introduced various schemes including the Productivity and Innovation Credit.
Closer attention is also being paid to manage the inflow of two groups of foreign workers – foreign Professionals, Managers and Executives (PMEs) and foreign construction workers.
For foreign PMEs, “the issue here is less about the numbers, but about the quality of foreign PMEs and also about fair treatment for Singaporean PMEs”, he said. To ensure a level playing field for Singaporeans, the government will be implementing the Fair Consideration Framework from August this year.
On foreign construction workers, their social impact will be much felt given their larger numbers. While the government has tightened their inflow and pushed for productivity improvements, there are still many construction projects in need of workers. It will be a necessary trade-off to defer some of these projects such as the extensions for Gardens by the Bay and a new Science Centre at Marina East to reduce the number of workers required.
NPTD’s Addendum to the President’s Address
The President’s Address delivered in Parliament on 19 May 2014 had set out the Government’s plans for a better Singapore over the next few years.
Singapore is our home and we are committed to seeing our country flourish as a liveable city and an endearing home. The National Population and Talent Division will continue to work towards our vision of a sustainable population where Singaporeans are the heart of our nation, where we have opportunities to pursue our aspirations, and which we are proud to call our home.
Our focus is on the following three key areas:
For more details, please refer to NPTD’s Addendum to the President’s Address (103kb .pdf).