Address the real causes of low fertility rate instead of taking in more immigrants as a stop-gap measure
Posted by temasektimes on April 30, 2012
A recent White Paper released by the National Talent and Development Division under the Prime Minister’s Office recommends that Singapore takes in 20,000 to 25,000 immigrants yearly to maintain the population growth.
It is surprising that the paper took a myopic view of the issue by focusing only on the benefits of immigration and not the potential dire consequences it pose for Singapore which many Singaporeans are already feeling now.
There are three key reasons behind Singapore’s low fertility rate which can be partly attributed to the relentless influx of immigrants in the last five years:
1. Sky-rocketing HDB flat prices:
Based on the latest statistics from HDB, the prices of HDB flats have nearly doubled in the last five years, pricing many ordinary Singaporeans out of the public housing market.
As BTO flats require a few years to build, couples either have to wait till they get their flat to get married and start a family or buy directly from the resale market which contributes to the sky-rocketing prices.
PRs who form some 20 percent of the buyers in the resale market are culprits as well as many of them have the buying power to pay higher than market rates for flats in the prime districts thereby causing Cash-over-Valuation (COVs) to spiral out of control.
Despite the introduction of a slew of cooling measures lately, the prices of resale flats continue to climb.
2. Stagnant wages:
Government statistics revealed that the real income of the lower-income group has decreased in the last decade while that of the middle class has hardly grown which can be attributed partly to the influx of cheaper foreign workers who in turn depress the wages of locals.
In a study conducted by Swiss bank UBS last year, the spending power of Singaporeans ranks below that of the Malaysians and the Taiwanese.
With little disposable income, it is not surprising that couples postpone starting families and having only one or two children if they do.
3. High cost of living:
Besides housing, the cost of living such as transport, healthcare, food and other living essentials have increased by leaps and bounds over the last few years.
Singapore’s high inflation rate is partly caused by the influx of foreigners creating a demand for goods and services leading to increasing prices.
Having a child in Singapore is an expensive life-long commitment from the moment of birth and not many couples are willing to risk jeopardizing their quality of life by having additional burdens to support.
Instead of taking short-gap measures by taking in more immigrants, the government should consider addressing the underlying causes of Singapore’s low fertility rates by introducing concrete measures to encourage couples to marry young and have children such as reducing the prices of HDB flats, increasing their wages and bringing inflation down to a more sustainable rate for the long-term.
Bringing in more immigrants will not only exacerbate the factors responsible for Singapore’s low birth rate in the first place, but will also exert an increasing strain on Singapore’s limited resources in the future.
Singaporeans are already feeling the unwanted effects of uncontrolled immigration – a crumbling public transport system, poorer quality of life and rising social tensions between locals and foreigners.
The newcomers will also grow old and become infirm one day. To compound the problem, many also bring their extended families to Singapore who will overwhelm our public healthcare system in time.
Immigration is a double-edged sword. The government should seriously seek the feedback of Singaporeans and conduct more comprehensive studies on its potential benefits and drawbacks before deciding on a holistic immigration policy to solve the nation’s perennial fertility problem while addressing the concerns of citizens at the same time.