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At a time of rising local unemployment more transparency needed on foreign population growth

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A letter to TODAY newspaper pointed out that many questions arose from the National Population and Talent Division’s (NPTD) recent disclosure. NPTD in a recent press release said that Singapore’s population had increased to 5.61 million and that the number of non-residents grew by 2.5 per cent to 1.67 million (https://theindependent.sg.sg/singapores-population-now-stands-at-5-61m).

The writer, Sunil Rai, quoted a Government website which said: “The number of non-residents grew by 2.5 per cent to 1.67 million, mainly foreigners working here and their families, as well as international students. There was stronger growth in the number of foreign domestic workers (FDWs) and dependents of Singaporeans who are on Long-Term Visit Passes.”

Mr Rai pointed out that there was stronger growth in the number of non-resident population, where 16 per cent are dependants, 11 per cent hold Employment Passes and 14 per cent are foreign domestic workers. And asked: “If an Employment Pass holder brings in a spouse, up to two parents and two children and perhaps a foreign domestic worker, there would be six arrivals for one person hired for a vacancy a Singaporean could not fill.”

He further said that at a time of rising local unemployment and constraints on resources like hospitals and transport, it was important for NPTD to answer questions like:

  • Are there more dependants than foreign talent arriving in Singapore?
  • Where do many of these dependants come from, what are their demographics, how long do they stay and what is being done to keep the numbers within a manageable range, given Singapore’s land constraints?”
  • What are some of the white-collar roles filled by Employment Pass holders that Singaporeans could not fill? Can Singaporeans be retrained to fill these roles and keep Singapore competitive?
  • What extent are foreigners, especially Long Term Visit Pass holders, utilising local resources such that Singaporeans feel crowded out?
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Mr Rai said that despite assurance by Government agencies that foreigners are hired for roles not filled by Singaporeans, locals do not feel less anxious about opportunities available to them here. And that NPTD’s response to such questions will address perceptions that can cause angst among some Singaporeans.

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