Foreigners crucial to our long-term survival

Technology and creative solutions alone are inadequate to solve our labour crunch (Raise quality of workers, not headcount, by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi; Sept 25).

We also need a calibrated influx of foreign workers and immigrants.

This is not just needed to fill up labour gaps; it is also badly needed for our long-term survival.

We can look at Japan, for example. Like Singapore, Japan's total fertility rate (TFR) has declined below the replacement level.

Over the decades, it has been trying all kinds of tactics to improve its TFR and attract more people to join the labour force by extending the retirement age, redesigning jobs and using all sorts of labour quality enhancements to raise productivity.

Yet, it has been unable to reverse its labour crunch.

The country has a social and political resistance to accepting foreigners. This poses a serious threat to its long-term survival.

One study shows that Japan needs an influx of around 200,000 foreigners per year just to prevent its population from declining further.

Can Singapore do better?

Our population ageing will only worsen.

It is projected that our citizen worker-retiree ratio will drop from 6.3 in 2011 to 2.1 in 2030.

This means working citizens will have to bear three times the tax burden in 2030 compared with 2011 or else the Government will have to cut its fiscal expenditure.

Personal disposable income and standard of living will decline.

Accepting more foreigners may be crucial to our long-term survival.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2017, with the headline 'Foreigners crucial to our long-term survival'. Print Edition | Subscribe