Committeeof Supply debate

More parents abroad register babies as citizens

Mothers with babies slung in front of them as they walk along Orchard Road.
Mothers with babies slung in front of them as they walk along Orchard Road. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Increase is a result of more Singaporeans living overseas for extended periods

More Singaporean parents living abroad are registering their children as citizens.

There were 1,600 children born overseas to at least one Singaporean parent who were registered as citizens last year. They made up 8 per cent of the 20,815 total citizenships registered last year.

This is up from the 1,200 such children registered on average each year from 2006 to 2010, and the 1,400 registered on average each year from 2011 to 2015.

The increase is a result of more Singaporeans living, working or studying overseas for extended periods, Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo said yesterday.

There are 210,000 such citizens now, a 30 per cent rise compared with 160,000 a decade ago. "This shows how Singaporeans are increasingly mobile and welcomed by employers and educational institutions internationally," she said during the debate on spending plans of the Prime Minister's Office.

Mrs Teo, who oversees population matters, said the Government has kept a "calibrated pace of immigration" to prevent the citizen population from shrinking.

Apart from the new citizenships granted last year, there were 29,955 others given permanent residency.

Mrs Teo said more should be done to help new citizens deepen their sense of belonging here. She suggested they get involved in all aspects of local life, including learning to speak local languages and taking an interest in issues that concern fellow Singaporeans. "Most important of all, they must understand our roots as a multiracial and multicultural society," she said.

Agreeing with MPs Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC), she encouraged Singaporeans to remain open to people of diverse backgrounds.

Mrs Teo said immigration measures will not fully meet the country's growing workforce needs. But rather than grow the population more quickly through immigration, "we have decided to press on with the restructuring of our economy towards one that is less dependent on manpower for growth", she said.

As such, the growth of the foreign workforce has slowed considerably, she noted. The Government is also trying to equip Singaporeans with more skills so they can remain relevant through measures like SkillsFuture, she added.

Mrs Teo, who oversees population matters, said the Government has kept a "calibrated pace of immigration" to prevent the citizen population from shrinking.

"Our vision must be a Singapore that is cohesive and open, where Singaporeans feel a sense of connectedness wherever they are in the world... and at the same time, have the capacity to welcome new additions to our family whether for a period of time or for good."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'More parents abroad register babies as citizens'. Print Edition | Subscribe