Budget debate: Fewer new citizens and PRs last year due to Covid-19 restrictions

From June 2019 to June 2020, Singapore's total population size dipped slightly by 0.3 per cent.
From June 2019 to June 2020, Singapore's total population size dipped slightly by 0.3 per cent.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - About 21,000 new citizenships were granted and 27,500 people were given permanent resident status in Singapore last year.

The number of new Singapore citizens includes around 1,300 children born overseas to Singaporean parents.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah, giving these figures in Parliament on Friday (Feb 26), said they were lower than previous years due to travel restrictions and operational issues arising from Covid-19.

About 31,700 and 22,100 people were given PR status and citizenship respectively each year from 2015 to 2019. This includes about 1,600 children born overseas yearly to Singaporean parents during the same period.

Ms Indranee said that safe management measures resulted in limited slots to complete the final steps for PR and citizenship registration, which must be done in person.

As a result, a few thousand applicants, who have received in-principle approval, had not completed all the required processes to be granted their PR status or citizenship by the end of 2020, she said.

"Depending on how the Covid-19 situation evolves, these applicants could be granted PR or citizenship in the coming months, and may add to the numbers normally granted this year."

The Government will continue to "carefully calibrate the pace of immigration", as it selects new PRs and citizens, she said, adding: "We take in immigrants not just based on their ability to contribute to Singapore, but also their ability to integrate."

Ms Indranee added that the pandemic has given Singapore an opportunity to reduce its reliance on lower-skilled foreign workers, even as it continues in its efforts to draw highly skilled global talent for growth sectors.

From June 2019 to June 2020, the Republic's total population size dipped slightly by 0.3 per cent due to a drop in foreign employment in the services sector and work permit holders.

"S Pass and Employment Pass holders have also decreased amid the pandemic due to travel restrictions and the economic downturn," said Ms Indranee, adding that the Government continues to maintain a tight grip on its foreign worker manpower policy.

At the same time, Singapore must remain open to global talent who can complement the local workforce, and create quality jobs for locals, she said, citing schemes like Tech @ SG, which helps local tech companies recruit highly skilled foreign talent.

"We set a high bar for these schemes and are very selective. This talent base will help us emerge stronger, by anchoring and expanding new growth sectors," she added.