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The Population Conundrum in Singapore

07 May 2012



Panelists at the roundtable: (from left) Dr Yap, Mr Janadas Devan, Director of IPS and Prof Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy


The IPS projections on how Singapore's population and labour force could look in 2050 based on three scenarios

Infographics: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the Civil Service College co-organised a roundtable on Singapore's Demographic Challenges on 3 May.

Attended by close to 50 academics and experts, the discussions were based on the second series of IPS population projections. The roundtable focused on the implications for the economy, quality of life, as well as society and family in Singapore if the population grew at different rates.

Dr Yap Mui Teng, IPS Senior Research Fellow, highlighted the possible scenarios based on the projections which included total residents and the labour force. The data shows that Singapore's total fertility rate has been on the decline while the population is rapidly ageing. Over the next two decades, the population will continue to age; even with immigration, the trend cannot be reversed. She pointed out the potential consequences of three scenarios, namely, when one out of every three, four and five residents are not local-born.

Speakers were drawn from the academic community in Singapore including NUS faculty members and researchers.

Assoc Prof Paulin Straughan, Deputy Head of the University's Department of Sociology, made two bold suggestions to help raise the total fertility rate in Singapore - to rethink the remuneration system at work and reconceptualise good parenting. She felt there was insufficient information about the key performance indicators and their quantification, which feeds a mentality that working longer hours may help to meet them. This leads to less time with the family.

Dr Malone-Lee Lai Choo, Director, Centre of Sustainable Asian Cities at the School of Design and Environment, looked at population from the perspective of land use and consumption. She considered the possible outcomes to meet the needs of a changing population size and the stress to the urban environment.

Assoc Prof Shandre Thangavelu from the Department of Economics highlighted the need to balance skilled immigrants with indigenous technology and capital investments. Analyses of foreign labour would have to include additional components such as social cost and infrastructure, he said.

IPS will be conducting a multidisciplinary review of the economic, social and political implications of the projected demographic scenarios for Singapore over the next 40 years.

By Institute of Policy Studies


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