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Thursday May 2nd 2019

Seven repercussions of the 6.9m population white paper after 5 years

Five years after the passing of the 6.9 million population white paper in Feb 2013, we examine seven major repercussions the population growth has on our country:-

1. Population growth

According to worldometers – a online apolitical world population data site – Singapore’s current population stands at 5.79 million recording a 700,000 population increase over the 2010 recorded data of 5.07 million. More significantly, the density of the country rose from 7,249 p/km2 to 8,274 p/km2 effectively adding 1,000 p/km2 just within 7 years.

Fertility remains a low 1.24 and net migrant intake is a strong 59,000 yearly for the past three years. The ideal fertility rate is 2.1 to maintain stable population growth according to birth.

The frenzy pace at which we brought in foreigners to work and become citizens later seem to have slowed down a little as we  consolidate and count the social and political cost especially with the daily train break-down.

2. Employment

Employment remains a thorny issue as the country struggles with fluctuating economic growth and a erratic Trump administration which has immediately removed the TPT agreement once he became President – a treaty which Singapore depends on alot for economic growth and jobs creation.

We also lost out on China’s One-Belt-One-Road economic programme but finally managed to squeeze in after much pleading viz-a-viz the PM’s South China Sea fiasco. Our Terrex army tanks were also seized in Hong Kong for a few torrid weeks when China tightened it’s diplomatic muscles on us.

We also saw many young PMETs and fresh graduates seeking our assistance amidst a very competitive hiring environment whereby our own has no viable protection against. The main bugbear is the lack of quota for Employment Pass work permit holders for those earning $3600/month – traditionally the life line of most Singaporean graduates. One can find a 100% foreign workforce in some MNCs sparking cries of discrimination but it is unfortunately all legit as the companies have hire using the EP work pass which carries no quota at all unlike the less-superior SP work permit.

According to the MOM website, there is a total of 189,000 EP work permit holders as of June 2017 against 173,000 in Dec 2012. More significantly, the numbers are down if we compared them to the Dec 2016′s figure of 192,000 – the first decrease since MOM documents the foreigner work permit data.

The S-Pass work permit holders – a lower-end work permit category for retail and service industry – is a healthy 179,000 as of June 2017 versus 142,000 in Dec 2012. The figure is a similar 179,000 as of Dec 2016.

Against a citizen population of 3.4 million, there is also a huge 0.53 million foreign permanent residents who are constantly competing for valued employment with us. There is always this feeling why do we need such a huge group of PRs in our midst and most of them are highly educated and probably earn a decent salary in order to be able to hang in there. The government has slowly remove perks for PRs so that citizens will not feel that this group has the best of both world without committing themselves.

We have heard of decade-long PR holders hail mostly from Malaysia and they will never want to convert to be citizens due to personal reasons. There are also rumours abound of how ICA force longstanding PR holders to be citizens or their PR will not be extended. But this could not be officially confirmed.

However, the country must continue to bring down the foreign professional worker numbers until most of our own has found a job to prevent unprotected competition in the workforce. Our local PMETs still find foreigners a unhealthy interference in the workforce and they will continue to view incoming foreigners with apprehension and subtle hostility.

There are also hardly any concrete steps taken by the government to integrate new foreign citizens with the local populace further alienating them from the mainstream population. In fact, the current scenario may deter many foreigners from taking up citizenship if they can help it as they don’t feel welcomed and may just leave once their work permit is up and unrenewed.

3. Transport

Though there is no official word on this but many analysts have speculated that over-crowding is the main reason why our train system broke down so frequently. There were hardly any train mishap twenty or even fifteen years back and any train break-down is seen as a huge event but now its a acceptable norm happening weekly.

Our frequent train breaks down have not only hampered work productivity as people can’t get to work on time but also affects our image as a world-class metropolitan city.

As many working Singaporeans rely entirely on public train transport to work, any break-down will have severe repercussion on the country’s economic growth cycle. To run around the fragile train system, people now begin to look towards car-pooling or bus services to get to work on time but it is still something that is not fool-proof.

Its almost a certainty that the over-crowding factor will be seen as the main contributor to our inept train service especially after the passing of the 6.9 million population white paper.

4. Crime rate

Crime rate has also gone up evidently with the sudden huge population increase as foreigners brought in with them their own culture and habits.

Singapore is by far the most safe country in the world for a very long time but that proud tag was erased easily when we saw several high-profiled murders, molest, fights, thefts and other crime occupying many of the front pages of our papers.

Our cabbies unfortunately bore the brunt of impatient foreigners fighting over fare usually in their drunken state. For example, a Taiwanese woman working here was recently jailed three weeks and fined $1,000 for kicking up a fuss in her stupor state with a cabby and security guard in separate incidents within a single night.

Normally, she may escape with just a fine or warning back in her own home country but in a authoritative country like ours, a jail sentence on the assault charge of the cabbie applied. Such spats involving foreigners seem to be on the uptrend and involve mainly Caucasians so far. Singaporeans by nature are non-violent and tend to back off when involved in a confrontation and this may have deter many other similar incidents from escalating into a open nasty fight.

Ironically, Singapore was registered as one of the world’s lowest crime rate during the past decade and many foreigners find this factor to be a major consideration when they decide to call the island state their home. Safety, infrastructure and a sound economy seem to be the hallmarks of our country and these few factors continue to attract foreign talents to our shore.

It will be a shame if we continue to hear of minor crimes dominating our newsfeed involving foreigners who may not have being able to adjust to our culture of forbearance and non-violence and chose to use their fists and size to voice out their displeasure.

5. Election

The recent general election in 2015 saw the ruling party registered one of the highest majority vote of 69.9% – chalking a 10% increase in votes compared to the disastrous 2011 showing of only 60%.

Many political analysts have speculated that new citizens may have lend a helping help here though there is no official word on this.

It is easy to see why new citizens will cast a vote for the ruling party as they are given a new lease of life in our country and only know one political party – the PAP.

Many foreigners in third world countries find Singapore a giant leap from where they have originated from and it is  proper for them to repay the perks given through a legitimate loyal vote out of gratitude.

This is often true for first-time voters as voting otherwise would make one sound like a traitor akin to one who bites the hand that feeds it. Asians have this repayment-of-loyalty principle in them and like cronyism they often will find ways to repay the person who helps them. As most new citizens hail from poor third-world countries, their loyalty vote is almost assured unless they opt out of voting due to personal reasons.

That is probably why we find many new citizens now serving widely in our RCs and CCCs – it is not only returning the favour but also trying to look for any influence which will ultimately benefit them.

Future elections will definitely benefit the incumbent who may remain in power for a very long time due to these new citizen loyal voters.

6. Assimilation

There seems to be pretty little official efforts at instigating social integration and besides the paltry RC’s tea function gathering, nothing much seems to have initiated at getting the locals to integrate with our foreign counterparts.

We also don’t seem to witness many foreigners socialising with the locals at restaurant or pubs further reiterating the belief that the simmering hostility though undercurrent remains consistently there.

We often find pockets of foreigners occupying a certain playground divided by different nationalities with very few attempting to befriend one other.

They tend to group among themselves and the failure to assimilate may prove to be the main factor for many new citizens moving on to other friendlier places in the future – Canada, Australia or US.

The failure of assimilation for this growing group of new citizens may eventually affect our social cohesion effort which we have built up gradually over the past few decades and it’s impact may only be felt during a national crisis or disaster such as a war or terrorist attack among others.

7. Foreign vz local sentiment

The much-anticipated foreign vz local sentiment remains muted fortunately as both keep very much to their own community.

The richer FTs will go to high-end restaurants while average-income locals confine themselves to the heartland foodcourts or coffee shops. Many FTs live in Tanjung Rhu, Katong and East Coast area which usually commands rental of $5000 and above though we are beginning to see more FTs renting HDB flats to save cost.

Concerts, plays and ballets attract mostly foreigners nowadays and besides the communal interest, the high ticket price has continued to keep many lower-income locals away. For example, a recent Coldplay cheapest concert ticket is priced at around $150 which probably a foreigner can afford only.

Night-life places like Clarke Quay or Boat Quay now depend on the supreme wallets of better-remunerated foreigners to survive though many took the opportunity also to travel on budget airlines to explore South East Asia during their work stint here.

There is still the notion that foreigners are better paid than locals and this constantly create latent tension between the two groups especially if the foreigner is considered to be a false talent.

We still find foreigners performing tasks that Singaporeans can do and this constantly irks the locals to no end. Many will wallow their pride and even agreed that FTs deserve to earn a premium income if their skills are specialised and rare but a normal administrator or sales executive certainly does not deserve a high salary let alone receives a work permit in the first place.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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One Response to “Seven repercussions of the 6.9m population white paper after 5 years”

  1. Mikey says:

    Hi Gilbert,
    A well written piece, cheerios!

    Probably, to add on to past 5 years happening in this little red dots are as follows:

    8. Mentally ill on the rise
    9. Aging population vs ageism discrimination
    10. Can die but cannot fall sick? Healthcare cost on the rise.
    11. HDB flats or CPF money are they yours? Really?
    12. Social media vs Fake news

    Etc the list goes on ..

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