In a recent town hall meeting, DPM Teo Chee Hean presented his argument that our low fertility rate today means that we need to have 20K-25K new citizens per year. You can and should read his speech and presentation in full here. For readers of this blog, you are probably familiar with the flaw in this argument - a shortfall of babies today can only be properly compensated by importing babies today or 25 year olds in 2037. ....not 20K adults which is what the PAP claims.
I want to show you visually using DPM Teo's own presentation diagrams and data to show why his argument is wrong.
This is Singapore's population profile in 2011 and 2050 without immigration:
Our current population profile is a barrel shape with more people below age 40, than above age 40. In 2050, the profile looks like an inverted pyramid, with more old people than young people.
If you import a 30 year old man, say from Phillipines or China, and make him a citizen today, in 2050, he will be 78 years old and his addition will go to 2nd bar counting from the top. If you import 100,000, 30 yr old today, 100K will be added to this bar i.e it will make the profile worse in 2050 because there will be even more aged people.
The correct way to compensate for the baby shortfall and ageing population is shown here:
To get a steady state profile of a rectangle in 2050, we need to add new citizens to the 45-49 age group and younger. The 30 year old new citizen should be added in 2035 or later to contribute positively to this profile - by 2050, he will be 45 years old and added to the yellow section where he is needed. We can also equivalently bring in 20 year olds in 2025 or 10 year olds in 2015 or 7 year olds in 2012. Bringing in adults today will just make this profile worse.
If you look at the diagram carefully, it also tells us there is no other real solution except to get our TFR back up. Why? If TFR does not go up, we need to import a and increasing number of people each year roughly 20 yrs from now....by 2050, if you look at the bottom bar 0-4 years old, we need to bring in as many as people as we reproduce, this is both unimaginable and impractical.
Given that we do not need to import adults as new citizens now and worsen the problem, we have time to push our TFR up which is the only viable solution. Using our current low fertility to justify more foreign import is not incorrect, it is harmful in the long run.
Another thing to note is the Singaporean population profile is completely different from our workforce profile which has a large number of non residents holding employment passes and work permits. This part of the workforce is always ’renewed’ causing our workforce to be artificially young leading to structural unemployment among those above 40. If you look at the workforce profile, the argument to import people to keep population young weakens further as the large number of young imported workers has already skewed our workforce profile and will continue to keep our workforce artificially young because after working here for a few years the PRC or Indian worker will go home and another young worker will take his place.