What challenges lie ahead in the next 25 years: Population

Singapore needs to boost its falling birth rate.
Singapore needs to boost its falling birth rate.PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

Singapore needs to boost its falling birth rate.

Like the economy, the population experienced a boom, growing from 1.9 million to 5.5 million over the past 50 years.

But the population growth is now slowing. This year's population growth will be the slowest in 10 years, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who noted that the population grew by 1.3 per cent last year.

At the same time, the population is ageing rapidly. Singapore will have 900,000 seniors by 2030, twice the 440,000 it has this year. Today, every five working adults support one senior citizen. In 2030, two adults will support one senior citizen.

The consequences of this are wide-ranging - in terms of taxes that are paid and how taxes are used, how the economy can stay vibrant and even how the armed forces can be manned.

Already, the effects can be felt today: There are greater demands on healthcare and social services, for instance. And more working adults feel "sandwiched" having to support their children as well as their parents.

The way forward is for Singaporeans to marry and have more children, he said. The Government is helping them do so by helping young couples get housing, providing childcare and reducing stress in the education system. The early signs are encouraging, he said, with marriages and births last year the highest in the past 10 years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'Population'. Print Edition | Subscribe