Thursday, April 28, 2011

Singapore population: Note 1

In trying to understand the impact of the growth of new citizens on voting results, I am posting relevant data as and when I find them.

Here is the first note:
 (Straits Times Nov 9, 2007)

THE number of foreigners becoming either Singapore citizens or permanent residents will likely hit a new record this year.

And the upswing will go some way in tackling Singapore's population problem, a key long-term challenge.

About 7,300 Singapore citizenships were granted in the first half of this year, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng told The Straits Times.

If the trend continues, Singapore will have 14,600 new citizens this year.

The figure is about 10 per cent higher than the record 13,200 citizenships granted last year. In 2005, 12,900 citizenships were given.

These numbers are a big jump from the typical tally of 8,000 becoming citizens annually in the previous four years.

More foreigners are also seeking the benefits of permanent residence. Some 46,900 of them were granted PR status in the first nine months of this year, compared to 57,300 for all of last year.

With falling birth rates and an ageing population, Singapore has been trying to attract foreigners to settle here.

As chairman of the National Population Committee, Mr Wong has been tasked with tackling the problem.

He said the new immigrants hail predominantly from South-east Asia, as well as South and East Asia, an 'understandable' pattern as they tend to share similar linguistic and cultural backgrounds with Singaporeans.

One such new citizen is former Chinese national Wang Jie, 43, who took up citizenship this year, together with her university lecturer husband and their 17-year-old son.

The main draw for them: Singapore's education system.

'My son's studies have improved since we came here because the teachers are much better,' said Madam Wang.

She is also getting a second wind in her career as a Chinese language tutor thanks to strong demand. 'I even have plans to open my own tuition centre,' she said.

The new citizens and PRs add to a pool of Singapore residents whose number stands at 3.68 million as of June. This is out of a total population of 4.68 million.

The remaining one million foreigners include 756,000 who are working. There are 110,000 here on an Employment Pass or S-Pass, and 646,000 on Work Permits.

While the newcomers add to the much-needed population numbers, social stresses have also resulted.

For instance, property agents have noted the formation of ethnic enclaves in certain housing estates. Singaporeans have also complained about competition for jobs.

But Mr Wong said Singaporeans should recognise that immigrants are part of a diverse workforce that will enhance Singapore's standing in the global economy.

'Our challenge is not the number of jobs available; it is that we do not have enough people to match the current rate of job creation,' he added, pointing to full employment numbers here.

On whether more could be done to inculcate in foreigners the ways of Singapore, he said he believed Singaporeans generally welcomed them. 'While there is no need to pretend that there are no differences between new immigrants and native Singaporeans, we should recognise that and accept that integration takes time and effort.'

He cited ongoing outreach efforts by schools, grassroots groups and expatriate bodies but added that there was also 'only so much the Government can do on its own'.

'Integration is a dynamic process that requires sustained efforts across all segments of society,' he said.

Sociologist Tan Ern Ser is sanguine about the challenges of integration. 'My sense is there is already a process of self-selection in that only those who could adapt and integrate would choose to settle down in Singapore.'

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