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As foreigners depart, Singapore sees population drop for first time since 2003

14 Comments

Singapore's population has shrunk for the first time since 2003 as travel curbs and job losses brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have pushed foreign workers from the global business hub.

The overall population dropped by about 18,000 people, or 0.3%, to 5.69 million, according to an annual population report.

A sharp drop in foreigners, down 2% to 1.64 million, as well as a marginal fall in permanent residents, outweighed a modest rise in citizens, some of whom returned from overseas as the pandemic spread globally.

"These trends were largely due to COVID-19 related challenges, brought about by weak demand and travel restrictions," the report said, citing job losses in services, a sector heavily reliant on low-paid foreign labour.

As the economy faces the deepest recession in its history - an economic decline officially estimated between 5%-7% for the year - the government has been raising barriers for foreign hiring to preserve jobs for locals.

But authorities in the low-tax corporate hub, home to the Asian headquarters of many multinational companies, have also warned that a populist turn could hurt business.

"We must be careful not to give the wrong impression that we are now closing up and no longer welcoming foreigners," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech earlier this month, after an election in which opposition parties criticized the government's immigration policies as too slack.

Singapore's non-resident population has more than doubled over the last 20 years, powering population growth in a city-state with one of the world's lowest birth rates.

This has prompted recurring concerns about competition for jobs and the strains on public infrastructure, which again came to the fore on the July 10 ballot, in which the ruling People's Action Party ceded a record number of seats to the opposition.

"As activities ramp up there may be a manpower shortage again down the road," said Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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"We must be careful not to give the wrong impression that we are now closing up and no longer welcoming foreigners,"

wise words

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I honestly do not see things going back to normal. There are permanent changes.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Good news as long as they don't come to Japan in search of work.

-8 ( +4 / -12 )

Good news as long as they don't come to Japan in search of work.

Why on earth wud they.....

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Japan take note.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I though the migration was due to the recent ruling about giving locals preference over foreigner in employment.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

citing job losses in services, a sector heavily reliant on low-paid foreign labour.

If you live in a foreign country in a pandemic it is a lot harder than being in your own country.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If you live in a foreign country in a pandemic it is a lot harder than being in your own country.

Blanket NO to this! It totally depends on the country to call home! Folks here in Japan, who hail from some countries have it a hell of a lot better then back home.

Shouldnt generalize with statements like this!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Singapore is using a modern style of slavery with cheap imported labour that can be thrown down the garbage bin at will.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Well Singapore's success has a foreign angle from all aspects, the Singaporean leaders of LKY era have studied, worked and traveled abroad extensively, and know very well that w/o top talent (foreign and local) in all sectors they will never be a regional power hub.

For those interested, the below article gives a detailed picture of this foreign equation.

https://www.emmanueldaniel.com/singaporeans-dont-deserve-piyush-gupta/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've only spent a few days in Singapore. Happy to visit, wish is wasn't so expensive. Fantastic food, but that can be said about almost any city in Asia. I found the locals nice, friendly, and helpful, mostly.

I would be excited to move there, if the pay and housing was good. My wife, not so much. The job would need to be in the financial industry. It isn't like I'd move there to open a restaurant or tattoo parlor.

Some of the laws seemed draconian to me, but it is their state and their laws. It is a place that appears more open on the surface than it truly is. That can be said of most places. There are thousands of cultural, unwritten, rules that we don't notice at home, but people new to a location do notice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Singapore's fertility rate is lower than Japan's. So either they should take in immigrants or end up facing the the challenge of supporting an aging population by raising taxes. Either choices are tough for a tax haven like Singapore, so I guess they will go back to taking in immigrants eventually after things settle down.

Singapore immigration is maybe not what you think. There are three streams of immigrants to Singapore. There are highly educated professionals mostly from the west working for big corporations there. They tend to live in expensive flats in good parts of Singapore. There is an army of low paid workers from Malaysia, Philippines and some other lower income Asian nations who do housekeeping, street cleaning and other low skill jobs. They live in dormitories of up to 12 to a room on the fringes of Singapore, invisible and unwanted except for the menial labor they provide. And then you have a third stream of Mandarin speaking Chinese from PRC who are recruited to Singapore to fill the gap left by the native's extremely low fertility rate. There were protests a few years ago by native Singapore residents over the new arrivals from China, claiming their habits and manners are too crude and dragging Singapore down.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some of the laws seemed draconian to me, but it is their state and their laws. It is a place that appears more open on the surface than it truly is. That can be said of most places. There are thousands of cultural, unwritten, rules that we don't notice at home, but people new to a location do notice.

Singapore is the one party police state with a happy face PRC aspires to be, minus the internet censorship which Lee Kuan Yew thought was futile. The boundary between the civil service, courts and the PAP is vague to non-existent.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Its also rich ethnic Chinese from Indonesia and Malaysia who are and will always be welcome in Singapore, and also the rich PRC for whom there will never be any immigration restrictions.

I distinctly remember the demonstrations were aimed at ethnic Chinese immigrants from China and was primarily over the growth of the cities population and how it was making life miserable for the existing population along with some cultural differences that rubbed native Singaporans the wrong way.

Example, an ethnic Chinese immigrant family complaining about the smell of curry coming from the home of an ethnic Indian who is a Singapore native. Citizens of Singapore rallied to the defense of the Indian family and the Chinese immigrants were advised to get used to the close living and ethnic diversity of Singapore.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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