Population debate: Address three fundamental issues
I WISH to make two points in response to the Government's Population White Paper ("Population could hit 6.9m by 2030"; last Wednesday).
First, it is unfair to compare the population density of Singapore and Hong Kong.
Quality of living is not about how densely you can pack people into land that can be developed. Factors such as land for recreational activities should also be taken into account.
Moreover, what land to exclude in the calculation of population density is subjective. If we can build housing on land reclaimed from the sea, surely it would be easier for the Hong Kong government to develop grassland and wetlands into living space ("Why population density is lower than HK's"; last Saturday).
Second, economic growth based on an increase in labour force is not a long-term solution. For example, a new citizen brought in at the age of 40 will become a "non-productive asset" 20 years later. Imagine if we are already in 2030 with a population of 6.9 million that is ageing rapidly. What policy options do we have then?
A better solution is to come up with a plan to address three fundamental issues - how to "produce more with less", how to increase our productive labour force without increasing our population, and how to raise our low birth rate.
The Government has been tackling the first issue by pushing the private sector to increase productivity. Perhaps the civil service should also set targets to improve productivity.
As for the second issue, some suggestions on how to increase our productive labour force without increasing our population include downsizing the civil service to release more people into the private sector, encouraging more women to rejoin the workforce after childbirth, and promoting flexible working hours and work-at-home schemes.
Finally, to tackle our low birth rate, we could perhaps make it easier for couples to adopt babies from overseas. These babies will grow up as Singaporeans as they will have their roots here.
Yeo Chee Kean