S'pore's population ageing rapidly: Nearly 1 in 5 citizens is 65 years and older

By 2030, around one in four citizens, or 23.8 per cent, will be aged 65 and above. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's population is ageing rapidly, with the proportion of citizens aged 65 and above increasing to 18.4 per cent in 2022.

This is a spike from 11.1 per cent in 2012, said the annual Population In Brief report released on Tuesday. It was 17.6 per cent in 2021.

By 2030, around one in four citizens, or 23.8 per cent, will be aged 65 and above.

The report by the Government's National Population and Talent Division provides an update on Singapore's key population trends over the past year.

The median age of the citizen population rose from 42.5 years to 42.8 years between June 2021 and June 2022.

Meanwhile, the number of citizens aged 80 and above has increased by more than 70 per cent from 2012 to 132,000. They now make up 3.7 per cent of the population.

Similar ageing trends are seen in other Asian societies such as Japan and South Korea, which also face low fertility rates.

In 2020, the proportion of Singapore's citizen population aged 65 and above was 17 per cent, similar to the South Korean population's 16 per cent, but lower than that of the Japanese population at 29 per cent.

The ageing trend has been highlighted by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in his Budget speech in February. He said that healthcare will account for the bulk of increases in government social spending by 2030 as Singapore's population ages.

At his National Day Rally speech in August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the impending goods and services tax (GST) increase is necessary as Singapore's population is ageing rapidly.

Singapore must be prepared to take better care of the elderly, including providing more medication subsidies to reduce the burden of healthcare costs on older Singaporeans and their families, he said.

All these mean that Singapore's healthcare and social spending is increasing sharply, PM Lee added.

The additional tax collected will also be needed to fund more hospitals, polyclinics and other facilities so that the elderly can access medical services, he said.

The planned GST increase will take place in two stages - from 7 per cent to 8 per cent from Jan 1, 2023, and from 8 per cent to 9 per cent from Jan 1, 2024.

As a small city state that relies on people as its key resource, the ageing trend and its implications will hit Singapore even more acutely, the population report said.

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To address this core demographic challenge, Singapore must continue to support marriage and parenthood, it added.

While the Government has a suite of measures to support Singaporeans in starting and raising families, employers, community partners and individuals can all do their part to create a stronger family-friendly support ecosystem.

This can range from workplaces that promote work-life harmony to community groups that work with the Government to care for families with more complex needs, the report said.

Singapore must also be a home where seniors can age meaningfully with confidence and peace of mind, it added.

The report cited Singapore's efforts to help its citizens take charge of their health and achieve healthy longevity. These include the Action Plan for Successful Ageing, which was launched in 2015 with more than 70 initiatives, as well as the Healthier SG initiative, which will be launched in 2023.

Immigration also helps to moderate the impact of ageing and low birth rates on Singapore's population, the report said. In 2021, 21,537 individuals were granted citizenship and 33,435 individuals were granted permanent residency.

Mr Christopher Gee, a senior research fellow and head of governance and economy at the Institute of Policy Studies, said the report provided more evidence of the accelerating long-term trend of population ageing, even after setting aside the decline in marriages and births in the last two years. 

Age-related spending, including public expenditure on healthcare, will have to increase, he said. 

Associate Professor Thang Leng Leng, an anthropologist from the National University of Singapore and president of the Gerontological Society of Singapore, said there should be more efforts to prevent ageism, and more opportunities for inter-generational interaction to cultivate a society of mutual support and respect.

She added that as there will be a higher proportion of older persons living alone, given the higher rate of singlehood in recent years, there should also be more support for ageing in place, with community-based care and support services within walking distance of a person's place of residence.

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