In the late 2000s, our public spaces, trains and buses started getting very crowded, and people were understandably concerned over our quality of life, social dynamics, and the pace at which our population was growing.
Things have changed since then. Our population growth has come down, and is now the lowest it has been in more than 10 years.
This record slowdown was due to significantly fewer foreign workers added to our population. And fewer foreign workers were added because of tighter foreign manpower policies such as higher foreign worker levies.
The tight labour market has not been easy on businesses – not just for food and beverage outlets, but also shops, hotels and even manufacturers.
Lower foreign workforce growth may dampen Singapore’s overall economic growth. But the tighter policies on the foreign workforce were deliberate, to reduce our reliance on foreign workers, sharpen our growth strategies, and balance our social and economic needs. The economy must restructure to be manpower-lean, and generate value through ideas and innovation, not through sheer headcount.
Work is also under way for a higher quality of life. We are ramping up public transport, housing and recreational spaces in a big way. Society is also adapting to increasing diversity, embodying our multicultural values.
So moderating our population growth to a sustainable level is key. We will continue to manage our population growth. But the issue goes beyond just numbers. We will also need to transform the economy to become more productive, to plan our infrastructure well, and to keep peace and harmony in our society, so that Singapore continues to be an even better home for all of us.