17 February 2013

Uncounted Babies and Total Fertility Rate's Incomplete Picture of Procreation Statistics

Singapore is a rather unique country in many ways.

One unique aspect is the significant levels of cross-border population inflow.  It grants of tens of thousands of permanent residency a year.  Significant numbers of residents marry non-residents.

In the light of these, does the total fertility rate truly reflect the country's fertility rate?

Total Fertility Rate Defined
Total fertility rate is defined as the average number of live births each woman would have during her reproductive years if she were to experience the age-specific fertility rates prevailing during the period.[1]  It is expressed as number of children per woman.

TFR takes the number of children born to women in a given year to represent the number of children they will give birth to by the end of their reproductive years.[2]

12 February 2013

Population White Paper 2013 — The Real Objectives

Population White Paper 2013 — A Sustainable Population For A Dynamic Singapore was released on 29 January.  It was followed by Land Use Plan To Support Singapore's Future Population — A High Quality Living Environment For All Singaporeans on 31 January.  Both were debated in Parliament from 4 February to 8 February, and endorsed by Parliament in a 77-13-1 vote.

Inasmuch as Population White Paper 2013 is, as Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said, the population road map to address the country's population challenge, it is surprising that the Government gave the Opposition and Nominated Members of Parliament less than a week to digest and debate the important issues therein.

Perhaps, the Government believed that the Opposition MPs had already more or less reached a position on this matter.

Perhaps, the Government knew that, regardless of whatever the Opposition and Nominated MPs and the public had to say on this matter, the Government had enough votes in Parliament to ensure that the motions would be endorsed if it did not lift the whip (it didn't, of course).

No Need For Population White Paper

There was no need for Population White Paper 2013 because there is nothing in the law that restrains the Government from allowing foreign worker inflow or the granting of citizenship or permanent residence.  Neither is there anything in the law that restrains the Government from spending on infrastructure, apart from the requirement that it obtain the President's consent for spending past reserves.

So what were the purposes of the White Paper?

08 February 2013

Half-Hearted Baby Steps And The Procreation Dilemma

Will the fourth edition of the recently released Marriage and Parenthood Package raise the alarming low total fertility rate in Singapore?

New Housing Schemes
First-timer married couples with at least one citizen child below the age of 16 years will be given priority in the allocation of new HDB flats by having "a proportion" of flats set aside for them, and will be allowed to rent flats from HDB at "affordable rentals" while awaiting the completion of their flats.

It is difficult to see how these schemes address the low citizen fertility rate.

Many couples want to own their homes before having children. Waiting for their new HDB flats to be ready means delaying the arrival of their first child by up to five years.

07 February 2013

Businesses And The Foreign Worker Bubble

Few people were surprised when Singapore Business Federation, in its Position Paper on Population, expressed dismay at the slowdown in immigrant labour in Population White Paper 2013 — A Sustainable Population For A Dynamic Singapore.

SBF's CEO Ho Meng Kit said:
The reduction in workforce growth has very serious consequences for businesses.  Some Singaporeans do not realise its impact but are seized with the prospect of an over-crowded island with 6.9 million people.  We must explain to Singaporeans that many businesses will be in jeopardy if they cannot adjust to this demographic tsunami that will hit us.  If businesses go under, jobs will be lost, Singaporeans will be affected.  If businesses cannot raise productivity and sustain profits, they cannot afford to pay Singaporeans higher salaries.  The population projections in the Population White Paper are already tough for companies.  It is unthinkable if Singaporeans choose to further limit immigration and the number of foreign workers.  This will damage our competitiveness and Singapore will lose its shine.  We do not want to see our children working overseas because there are no more good opportunities here.

04 February 2013

Why 6.9 Million May Not Be The Worse-Case Scenario

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said that the Government's population estimate of 6.9 million by 2030 was just an estimate, not a forecast nor a target.  It was a number that the Government arrived at, based on assumptions of productivity and workforce growth rates[1].

He added that, for planning purposes, it was safer to take the more aggressive projection — the worst-case scenario — and plan infrastructural needs accordingly so that the Government would not be caught under-providing, as was the situation at the moment.

He hoped Singapore's population would not reach 6.9 million by 2030, but would be much lower.

While Mr Khaw, as Minister for National Development, might hope that the population would not reach 6.9 million by 2030, are there any situations in which the Government might hope that the population would reach 6.9 million by 2030 and 6.9 million might not be the worst-case scenario?