“However, this year saw the growth of foreign nationals slowing down sharply, partly as a direct result of government policies. But with one-third of the population foreign-born, the challenge for policy-makers is to create enough common ground to bring this diversity together” (Singapore Grapples With Low Birth Rate, Integration, Miss Hoe Yeen Nie).
The report “Singapore Grapples With Low Birth Rate, Integration” (December 31, 2010) by Miss Hoe Yeen Nie: against a background of falling birth rates, a steadily ageing population, and a potpourri of discontent and unhappiness over the administration’s immigration policies, the National Population and Talent Division has considerable responsibilities. More importantly, on-the-ground sentiments have been considerably exacerbated as groups of individuals struggle to find stable employment, and various households grapple with the rising costs of living. Clearly, much more has to be done on the part of the Government to review antiquated population policies, and deliver greater transparency and efficacy in the management of immigration and integration.
Immigration and foreign workers or talents are bitter pills to swallow, especially for Singaporeans who might have been directly affected by such extensive influxes. The administration and its subsidiary bodies have been naïve to assume that integration is a one-way process; and end up rallying new citizens or permanent residents and inadvertently marginalising Singaporeans. Activities and initiatives must represent an open dialogue or discussion. Ultimately with the regulation of immigrant numbers, whilst hard to quantify, the key is to find the right balance between “just nice” and “too many”. The solution: proper consultation and engagement platforms to genuinely comprehend how stakeholders feel about the influxes and efforts undertaken.
Population woes are commonplace around the world, but Singapore’s reliance on immigration policies per se is certainly misplaced. The falling birth rate can be attributed to an assortment of factors: heightened education and literacy levels, high financial burden of raising multiple children, evolving attitudes towards marriage and individual freedom et cetera. Family planning and monetary incentives have been at the centre of our population strategy for the past decade; yet it has yielded inconsequential takeaways. Besides tax reliefs and maternity benefits, policy-makers must consider alternative proposals and weigh their feasibility, such as increasing day-care services, subsidising fertility services, so on and so forth. Coupled with an ageing population, incoming strategies must be adequate, customised and catered to the needs of the elderly.
Whilst undertaking such a study, given Singapore’s geographical limitations and the corresponding population density challenges, the administration should establish an optimum population size. This is essential to maintain fundamental standards of living.
Taking into account the culmination of the aforementioned concerns, the National Population and Talent Division cannot undertake the tumultuous challenges single-handedly. Beyond the harmonisation of efforts between ministries and involved agencies, there should be more active engagement of the ground to properly gauge sentiments and moderate policies. Otherwise, it might be too little, too late.