Keeping Singapore’s economy dynamic despite nation’s demographic challenges

Sg foreign workforce

This TODAY file photo highlights Singapore’s tremendous dependence on foreign manpower

Some have advocated for zero net immigration and no increase in share of foreign workers in the workforce, while others argue that it is necessary to expand the labour force here to sustain economic growth. Yet, Singapore can achieve only two out of these three objectives and must make balanced choices in addressing this demographic trilemma, said managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Ravi Menon. Speaking at the IPS Singapore Perspectives forum on Monday (Jan 22), Mr Menon added that Singapore’s demography alone does not dictate its destiny, as he spelt out how the nation can sustain its economic dynamism in the face of demographic change. Below is an edited excerpt of Mr Menon’s speech.

I will focus my presentation on the economic implications of demographic change: what it means for economic growth and economic dynamism. The two are different.

My presentation will centre around two broad themes.

First, I will describe our demographic trilemma – the constraints and the choices we need to make.

Second, I would like to argue that demographics is not destiny – why economic dynamism is not a numbers game and how we can remain dynamic amidst this demographic challenge.

Let’s start with the total fertility rate, or TFR.

By the way, we must be one of the few countries in the world where most people know what TFR stands for! It is indeed an existential issue for us.

The TFR is the starting point of all demographic analysis. Singapore has had a sustained decline in its TFR. Our TFR fell from around 1.8 in the 1980s (which is already below the replacement level of 2.1) to about 1.3 in the early 2000s. This has weighed heavily on resident population growth as seen from the relatively close correlation with the TFR.

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About gptuitionsg

A dedicated English and GP tutor with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore, Steven Ooi retired from the profession after a 14-year career during which he was one of the most sought-after private tutors in Singapore. He is the recipient of the Minerva Prize from NUS, which is awarded to the top English Language honours student. This website, which has consistently ranked among the top 10 on Google and has received over 470,000 hits, has now been converted into a GP resource site cum listing of recommended tutors. If you are a GP or English tutor who wishes to be listed here, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ (remove the spaces). Interested parties will be assessed and interviewed by him, and qualifications will be checked. These procedures are necessary to uphold quality standards. DISCLAIMER: While every reasonable effort has been made to assess the competence and verify the qualifications of recommended tutors here, no guarantees are made and you engage them at your own risk. By using this website, you agree that you will not hold the webmaster Steven Ooi responsible for any consequences — direct or otherwise — that occur in relation with your use of this website.
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