The Limit of Growth through Immigration

The PSP believes in citizens’ participation in the political process and formulation of national policies. We hope the coming #PSPJobsDebate will bring us closer to that goal. For Singaporeans to follow this debate better, I am putting forward two articles to give some context to the population statistics, employment policies and free trade agreements. The other article is: The Interplay Between Gov’s Foreign Talent Policy and Free Trade Agreements.

This is necessary because there is too much information to digest in one go in a single debate. This first post will address population and economic growth. The second post will address the foreign talent policy and free trade agreements.

Singapore’s population was 5.69M in 2020. This is an increase from 4.03M in 2000 and 5.08M in 2010. The population has grown by an average of 2% a year for the last 20 years, which is twice the 1% growth rate of the world’s population. This increase is largely due to immigration as our total fertility rate is a low 1.2.

The 5.69M can be grouped under residents and non-residents. Residents (4.04M) comprise citizens and permanent residents (PRs). Non-residents (1.65M) are foreigners living and working in our small island. Of the 4.04M residents, 3.52M are citizens and 0.52M are PRs.

The 3.52M citizens make up only 62% of our population. If the current immigration policies continue unchanged, this ratio will be further reduced.

The strive for economic growth is the main reason for this aggressive immigration strategy. The Government constantly harps on the need to boost population but is instant repopulation through admitting immigrants the best way? The limit of growth through immigration is being felt in Singapore now through the widespread anxiety among Singaporeans with regards to jobs and livelihood. Hence the #PSPJobsDebate.

The economy currently is supported by a workforce of 3.5M (out of a population of 5.69M) with 1.6M PMETs and 1.9M non-PMETs. PMET is the acronym for Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians. It is used very broadly; even CEOs and senior managers are included in this category of employment. For foreigners who are the PMETs, they are either employment pass holders (EPs) or S-Pass holders (SPs).

Foreign nationals who come in through free trade agreements like CECA as intra-corporate transferees (ICTs) and professionals have to get the relevant work passes too but they need not go through the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) job advertisement process. In addition, their dependents previously only needed a Letter of Consent (LOC) from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to work in Singapore but this has changed. Since 1 May 2021, all dependents need to apply for a relevant work pass before they can work in Singapore.

The 1.6M PMETs comprise 1M of Singaporeans, 250,000 PRs and 400,000 foreign PMETs. So the foreign PMETs occupy about 25% of our PMET jobs.

When we talk about rebalancing the job market during the #PSPJobsDebate, we are targeting this 400,000 figure with the aim of attracting and retaining the more qualified PMETs while reducing the number of average ones who are in direct competition with the Singaporean PMETs.

There will be much more information and arguments that will surface during the #PSPJobsDebate. We hope you will continue to follow us.

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