Singapore registers record decline in population numbers

Covid-19 also led to Singaporeans postponing marriages and parenthood plans

Singapore registered record declines in its population numbers over the past year as the impact of Covid-19 restrictions and conditions hits home, the Government's annual Population in Brief report revealed yesterday.

The pandemic also led to Singaporeans postponing their marriage and parenthood plans, resulting in fewer marriages and births last year.

The number of citizen marriages - at 19,430 - and the proportion of transnational unions - at 30 per cent - were both at their lowest since 2010.


Singapore's total population as at June fell for the second straight year, down to 5.45 million from 5.69 million last year. This 4.1 per cent decrease is the largest year-on-year decline - and only the third instance of negative growth since 1950, according to data from the Department of Statistics.

Previous falls in total population were registered last year (0.3 per cent) and in 1986 (0.1 per cent).

Although the resident population also fell slightly, this year's decline stemmed largely from the 10.7 per cent decrease in the non-resident population, which fell to 1.47 million as at June.

As with last year - when the dip was 2.1 per cent - the non-resident population declined largely on account of falling foreign employment amid travel curbs and uncertain economic conditions.

The decrease was seen across all pass types that are issued to non-residents, with work permit holders in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors seeing the largest drop.

The citizen population also decreased by 0.7 per cent to 3.5 million, while the permanent resident (PR) population fell by 6.2 per cent to 0.49 million.

This is the first year-on-year decrease in both the citizen and resident populations since the data was collected in 1970.

Pandemic travel curbs played a major part, said the report, as more citizens and PRs stayed overseas continuously for 12 months or more and were not counted as part of Singapore's resident population.

There were also fewer citizenships (21,085) and permanent residencies (27,470) granted, compared with last year.

The report said this was likely from travel restrictions as well as "operational limitations" induced by the pandemic.

For instance, the implementation of safe management measures resulted in limited slots to complete the final steps for PR and citizenship registration, which must be done in person.

Some applicants who had received in-principle approval thus did not complete the full process needed to become PRs or citizens.

Singapore's citizen population also continued to age, with 17.6 per cent aged 65 and above, compared with 16.8 per cent in June last year and 10.4 per cent in 2011.

This proportion is expected to rise to about 23.8 per cent in 2030.

The proportion of citizens aged 20 to 64 has fallen from 65.1 per cent in 2011 to the current 61.9 per cent, and is expected to further decrease to about 56 per cent in 2030.

Singapore's population decline must be seen as a wake-up call - one expected for some time but which has now taken a pandemic to bring into sharp focus, said Associate Professor Leong Chan-Hoong of the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

"Are our business models sustainable if they rely heavily on the contributions of lower-skilled foreign workers? At the societal and individual levels, are Singaporeans prepared to make the changes to our routines, our habits?" he asked.