Singapore needs to attract more foreign workers to maintain its economic growth in the face of an ageing population, low birth rate and shrinking workforce, officials have claimed. Its government is preparing infrastructure plans that would see the city state reach a population of 6.9 million people by 2030. Singapore’s population has already increased by more than 1.1 million since 2004 and is currently 5.3 million.
However, there are concerns as Singapore already has a high percentage of foreign workers, around 38% of the total population, which has caused tension among local residents. The government’s new white paper revealed that it is planning ahead for a huge increase in residents which will see the rail network double in size and planning granted for hundreds of thousands of new homes.
‘It will become increasingly difficult to grow our workforce through our citizen population alone, unless we succeed in reversing the declining fertility trend,’ the white paper says. A shrinking working age population would mean ‘a less vibrant and innovative economy’, while ‘business activity would slow, and job and employment opportunities would shrink,’ it adds. Opponents say that they don’t want an extra million foreigners and warn that this would leave Singaporeans only just in the majority as 55% of the population.
The influx of expats to Singapore is part of a trend in skilled people moving from the West to the Far East, according to David Howell of Guardian Wealth Management, He predicts the Far East will become the number one spot for expats. ‘While once upon a time, Brits dreamt of moving to the south of Spain, the Far East has become the expat destination of choice. We have witnessed thousands of expats flocking to Hong Kong and Singapore is fast following suit,’ he said.
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He pointed out that places such as Singapore and Hong Kong offer favourable conditions to foreign workers including booming economies, attractive tax regimes and a higher standard of living. ‘With markets in the West continuing to battle deep economic uncertainty, it should come as little surprise that increasing numbers of people are leaving our shores in search of something more exciting,’ he explained.
‘Singapore is making real strides in both infrastructure and business models and we expect this to be replicated across different parts of Asia as the general shift towards doing business in the Far East