連接上篇講解新加坡房屋與公積金的發展,祖兄在本篇繼續分析新加坡人口變動和相關的政府政策,詳情如下。

Singapore Demographics Transition and Government Policies

When Singapore became independent in 1965, the total population was 1.9 million, 50% of the population was illiterate, unemployment rate was 14%, fertility rate was 4.7, and the GDP per capita was US$2,700. By 2015, GDP per capital has increased to US$51,855, unemployment rate is around 2%, while 97% of the resident population is literate and the fertility rate is 1.25.

Below are some 2016 figures from the Singapore Department of Statistics:
Total population: 5.6 million.
Resident population: 3.4 million citizens and 0.5 million permanent residents.
Foreign workers: 1.7 million.
Average age of resident population: 40 years old.
Ethnic composition for resident population: 74.3% Chinese, 13.4% Malay, 9.1% Indian and 3.2% others.
Life expectancy: 82 years.
Residents with post-secondary school qualifications: 52%.
Total number of residents aged 60 or above by 2037: 2 million.

The Singapore government has implemented various policies to influence the level of births, marriage, parenthood and in-immigration in the past 50 years. From 1965 to the mid-1980s, the government implemented anti-natalist policies (抗拒生育政策) and promoted small family with no more than 2 children for the citizens. Besides the use of contraceptives, sterilisation and abortion were also legalised in the 1970s in order to lower the birth rate. Certain disincentives were also implemented: restriction on maternity leave for the first 2 children born, families with fewer children had higher priority in getting government flats, and priority in the registration to primary schools to children from families of 3 or fewer children. In addition, the government wanted to encourage the university graduate mothers to have more children. Priority was given to the children of women who were university graduates and income tax relief was given to these mothers. A government agency was set up to promote social activities among male and female university graduates to increase the marriage rate within this group. The graduate mother scheme was abolished in 1985 when the fertility rate dropped below the population replacement level of 2.1 in 1977.

To meet the increasing demand for workers with a substantial growth in Singapore economy and manufacturing industries, the importation of foreign labour continued from the 1960s till 2011. With a declining birth rate and increase in foreign workers and immigrants/permanent residents, the citizen percentage decreased to 64% of the total population by 2010 and only 55% of the Singapore population was locally born. A foreign worker levy was introduced in 1982 to encourage the employers to employ less foreign workers and upgrade the skills of local labour. Business owners were also encouraged to cut down their foreign labour requirement by investment in automation technology. Under the government’s Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme, when a company buys computer/IT products to automate its manufacturing or business process, there would be a 400% income tax allowance deduction on the actual capital expenditure or the company can claim a cash refund amounting to 40% (down from 60% till July 2016) of the investment amount.

In 1987 the government finally reversed its population policy and said that there is a human resource problem arising from the lower birth rate. A new policy (鼓勵生育政策) was announced to encourage Singaporeans to have 3 or more children. Tax incentives and paid childcare leave are now given to the parents and those families with 3 or more children would have higher priority in getting the government flats and primary school registration. In order to promote fertility, the local mothers can have 4 months paid maternity leave, tax relief incentives, baby bonus and the fathers of the new born babies can also take paternity leave. Despite all these measures, the birth rate among the residents still cannot be raised and the proportion of singles has generally risen across age groups in the past 10 years, particularly among the younger males and females.

With the relaxation of immigration policy since 1989, there was a sharp increase in the foreign worker and immigrant population which raised the concerns of the locals due to a rapid increase in the cost of living and mis-alignment in the public infrastructure and housing needs. Their concern was reflected in the 2011 General Election when the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP;人民行動黨) only won 60% of the votes. Since then the government has reviewed its policies and aimed to maintain the total permanent resident population at 0.5 million, ethnic balance for the citizen population, and foreign worker population not exceeding 1/3 of the total workforce.

We can argue that the success of the government’s population policies in the 1970s and 80s has created today’s population problem in Singapore. To transform and maintain a strong Singapore workforce for meeting the challenges of the new digital era despite an aging population, besides encouraging the mothers to return to workforce with the launching of a nation-wide work-life balance campaign, the government has also introduced various measures to increase the size of local workforce, upgrade their skills and lessen the labour cost of the employers:

(1) lower Central Provident Fund (CPF;中央公積金) contribution rates for workers beyond age 50 to lighten the cost of employing them.

(2) the labour law was changed and the employers have to offer re-employment to eligible employees who turn 62, up to age 65. Both employers and employees have the flexibility to make adjustments to work arrangements and employment terms to meet their respective needs. If the employer is unable to offer the staff a position, a one-off employment assistance payment equivalent to 3 months’ salary has to be paid to the employee.

(3) under the Wage Credit Scheme, the government co-funded 40% of the wage increase given by the employers to Singapore Citizen employees with a gross monthly wage of $4,000 and below from 2013 to 2015. The government funding percentage is reduced to 20% in 2016 and 2017.

(4) the Skills Future Credit scheme was launched to encourage individuals to take ownership of their skills development and life-long learning. All Singaporeans receive an annual credit of S$500 from January 2016 which can be used to pay for a wide range of approved skills-related courses on top of existing government course subsidies.

(5) the Workfare Training Support Scheme was put in place to encourage working Singaporeans to attend training to upgrade their skills and improve their chances of being employed. The employee gets 95% course fees subsidy from the government and the employer would be reimbursed for absentee payroll at 95% when their staff are away from the workplace to attend training.

(6) the Career Support Programme was implemented to encourage employers to employ older professionals, managers and executives aged 50 and above after their re-training to fill up the mid-level with a minimum monthly salary of S$4,000. The government will give a wage support subsidy to the employer amounting to 40% of their gross monthly salary (capped at S$2,800 per month) for the first 6 months, the subsidy percentage is reduced to 20% for the next 6 months. The subsidy percentage would be reduced by 50% if the employee is aged between 40 and 50.

It would take another 10 years to see if the above measures are successful in meeting the Singapore government’s objectives.

Similar to Hong Kong (HKG), the Singapore population is rapidly aging. How to maintain the current productivity level and reasonable economic growth rate with a rapidly aging workforce would be a challenge to the Singapore and HKG governments in the coming years.

【後記:
Knowing that the new generation of leaders of Singapore would not have the absolute status and authority of Lew Kuan Yew (LKY) as the founder of modern Singapore, the government has introduced a more consultative approach towards the establishment of government policies in recent years. The government departments are required to review their major policies every three to five years and publish their proposed changes and draft policy paper on the websites to seek feedback from the public and industry players within a prescribed period of time. The responsible government department would then amend the draft and publish the finalised policies on their website for access by the public. A memorandum is also issued at the same time to explain the major changes made to existing policies and why certain feedback from the public are not taken up in the final version. It does not necessary mean that the government will change its policies based on the opinion of its citizens, but it helps to make the whole process more transparent to the public and decreases the chance for senior civil servants to reap their own financial benefits (e.g. their family members buying land or houses in those areas to be re-developed with change of land use purpose) during the planning and legislation stage as the medium and long term visions/plans of the government can be viewed by both local and overseas public on the Singapore government websites.

It seems that recently HKG government is moving in the opposite direction and starts to adopt the ways used by LKY to rule Singapore in the past. The lack of public consultation for the Hong Kong Palace Museum project in West Kowloon Cultural District is a vivid example. Perhaps one day the public would say that Singapore and Hong Kong are being ruled in similar ways by the respective governments?
2017年7月3日。】

有關其他範疇的比較及闡釋,且聽下回分解。

這篇文章發表 於 星期六, 七月 1st, 2017 11:22 上午 在 邁向現代 Road to Modernity. 你可以回應這篇文章透過 RSS 2.0 feed. 你可以 留下回覆, 或 引用 從你的個人網站.

留下回覆

Name
Mail (will not be published)
URI
廻響