Singapore's population grows 1.3% to 5.61 million

Singapore’s population hit 5.61 million in June, up by 1.3 per cent from the year before.
Singapore’s population hit 5.61 million in June, up by 1.3 per cent from the year before.PHOTO: ST FILE

Stable growth in resident, foreigner numbers but figures reflect rapidly ageing population

Singapore's total population reached 5.61 million in June, up by 1.3 per cent from the previous June, population figures released yesterday showed.

The number of residents and foreigners saw stable growth, similar to the past few years, but small shifts are taking place.

Last year had the highest annual number of Singaporean babies born in over a decade.

More maids are working here to take care of children and the rising number of elderly.

More dependants on long-term visit passes - typically, spouses from Asian countries - are also here to be with their Singaporean family members.

 
 

These developments reflect the calibrated approach to immigration over the past five years.

The trends are likely to persist as baby boomers' children start families, while their parents' generation grows older, observers said.

"The trends, particularly the need for foreign domestic workers, will continue, given our rapidly ageing population," said National University of Singapore sociology professor Tan Ern Ser.

But this dependence could be lessened if seniors stay healthy longer, relatives or neighbours help to take care of them, and more locals take up caregiving jobs, he added.

This year's Population in Brief report showed the citizen population grew by 1 per cent, to 3.41 million.

There were just under 30,000 new permanent residents last year, a figure that has stayed fairly constant since 2012. The non-resident pool grew by 2.5 per cent over the same period, to 1.67 million people.

Last year also saw a bumper crop of 33,725 citizen births.

This was the highest number of births in more than a decade, higher than in 2012, a Dragon Year, which the Chinese consider auspicious.

Citizen marriages also rose - the 23,805 marriages last year are above the average of 21,900 marriages a year over the past decade.

The number of new foreigners employed increased slightly. The Government tightened foreign manpower flow five years ago, resulting in foreign employment growth falling from 77,000 in 2011-2012 to 23,000 in 2014-2015.

This crept up to 27,000 last year, but "foreign workforce growth will continue to be moderated to supplement our local workforce in a sustainable manner", said the report.

To stay competitive in a tight labour market, businesses need to redesign jobs and restructure, it said.

Singapore continues to age, with more baby boomers - those born from 1947 to 1965 - retiring. About 13.7 per cent of citizens were aged 65 and older as of June, up from 13.1 per cent a year ago. This is in stark contrast to the 9.2 per cent of citizens in this category 10 years ago.

There are now 4.7 working-age citizens to each citizen aged 65 and above, compared with 6.9 in 2006.

Dr Kang Soon Hock, who heads the social science core at SIM University, said this may spur a rethink of the retirement age so people have enough for retirement. "The Government is taking a hard look at the dependency ratio. They are trying to push for a mindset change and encourage more to employ seniors."

This dependency ratio is projected to hit 2.3 in 2030, and the report said this trend "can only be alleviated over the longer term with more citizen births and immigration".

The Government said it will continue to grant between 15,000 and 25,000 new citizenships a year, mostly to those with family ties or who studied, worked or lived here.

Prof Tan sees a physical limit to the total population figure.

"Thus far, we have been able to attract immigration, but we may not be able to do so in future," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore's population grows 1.3% to 5.61 million'. Print Edition | Subscribe