Singaporean Case Study

The biggest population-related headline of the last couple of weeks has been Singapore. Singapore has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world – 1,29 in 2012, according to the country’s official statistics. The reasons for low fertility and implications of government measures have been reflected in the demography.matters blog, in the Diplomat as well as on MercatorNet recently. With about one third of the Singaporean population of foreign-origin, the government has proposed new measures to increase population size and fertility: first by implementing new population growth measures costing $1,6 billion, and secondly by encouraging migration. The latter caused Singaporeans to protest, which apparently they are not prone to do, according to Bloomberg’s columnist William Pesek. As he points out, this is a good case study and sets an example for other countries. Since Singapore’s experience with migrants has not resulted in higher birth rates, this might mean a strain on the current economic system and therefore alternative mechanisms should be developed, according to Pesek.

Orchard Road in Singapore. Photo by Cristo Pajust.

Orchard Road in Singapore. Photo by Cristo Pajust.

Though Singapore competes with other destination countries in attracting migrants according to demography.matters, I think the pool of (low skilled) migrants can’t be endless either. In this I agree with William Pesek that Singapore’s (and several other countries’) economic welfare is dependent on a scheme of bringing in more migrants rather than making its existing workforce more productive (or follows a ‘Ponzi Demography’ scheme as demographer Joseph Chamie calls it). Most probably, just telling people to have more babies would not work since most of Singapore’s younger generations value their freedom and personal realization opportunities outside the family (the Second Demographic Transition has already taken place in Singapore). However, according to some experts the current population situation might not actually result in very dire outcomes. Indeed, it shouldn’t be the population size that determines the well-being and health of a country, but rather the economy should be restructured according to available resources and qualities of its people.

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