Singapore

Total population up 0.1%, non-resident population shrinks 1.6%

If Singapore does not seem more crowded these days, it is because the total population hardly grew in the 12 months since June last year.

It expanded by a mere 0.1 per cent - or about 5,000 - to 5.61 million, the slowest growth rate in more than a decade.

In contrast, the total population - which includes residents and non-residents - in the decade before this year expanded by an average of 2.45 per cent each year.

The chief reason for the snail-paced growth is the decrease in the number of Work Permit holders.

As a result, the non-resident population shrank 1.6 per cent to 1.65 million, the first drop in 14 years.

The fall in the number of Work Permit holders is due to the slowdown in two sectors - construction and marine and offshore engineering - the National Population and Talent Division said in its annual Population in Brief report, which was released yesterday.

Non-residents consist of Work Permit holders, Employment and S Pass holders, foreign students, foreign maids and other dependants.

Dr Mathew Mathews of the Institute of Policy Studies said the reduced number of non-residents reflects "the tightening of the inflow of migrants" and is in line with government attempts to nudge industries to raise productivity "rather than just rely on additional labour".

He added that in the longer term, it is important to consider if "there is sufficient quality foreign manpower that can be injected into the Singaporean labour force".

"It is always a question of balancing the needs of a robust economy with sufficient manpower and ensuring a Singaporean core is not compromised," he said.

Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of the National University of Singapore said if the fall in Work Permit holders is due to industries transforming and relying less on foreign labour, "then it may be good news for those who are unhappy about the large proportion of migrant labour in Singapore".

Meanwhile, Singapore's citizen population continues to age.

The proportion of Singaporeans aged 65 and older rose to 14.4 per cent, from 13.7 per cent last year.

Citizen births remained stable. It fell by 1.7 per cent last year to 33,167, after a record high in 2015, which experts attributed to the SG50 feel-good effect.

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