Parliamentary reply by Minister Indranee Rajah on COVID-19’s impact on long-term population trends and strategies
FOURTEENTH PARLIAMENT OF SINGAPORE
MONDAY, 1 NOVEMBER 2021
Miss Cheng Li Hui:
To ask the Prime Minister in light of the Government’s annual Population in Brief report and the registered dips in our population numbers due to COVID-19 last year (a) what is the full or expected impact of COVID-19 on our long-term population trends; (b) whether COVID-19 has resulted in any setbacks to our existing population strategies thus far; and (c) whether the Government will consider re-calibrating our existing population strategies in view of the uncertainties caused by COVID-19 and, if so, in which areas.
Ms Indranee Rajah (for the Prime Minister):
The COVID-19 pandemic affected our 2020 and 2021 population figures, but its long-term effect remains to be seen.
Our Singapore Citizen (SC) and Permanent Resident (PR) populations decreased by 0.7% and 6.2% respectively between June 2020 and June 2021. This was mainly because more SCs and PRs remained overseas continuously for more than a year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The numbers may recover as travel restrictions ease. Similarly, while the Non-Resident (NR) population decreased by 10.7% over the same period, this was largely because of a decrease in foreign employment in Singapore, which is expected given uncertain economic conditions and widespread border restrictions.
However, it remains to be seen if there has been a long-term impact on marriage and parenthood trends. There were 12.3% fewer citizen marriages in 2020 than 2019, largely attributable to the pandemic. There were also 3.1% fewer citizen births over the same period. As most of the births in 2020 would have been conceived prior to the pandemic, we will have to further assess its impact on parenthood decisions.
While our fundamental population approach remains sound, the pandemic has brought about added impetus to push ahead with our key strategies.
For example, supporting marriage and parenthood is a longstanding priority. To reassure couples and encourage them to proceed with their marriage and parenthood plans, the Government introduced the one-off $3,000 Baby Support Grant in 2020. COVID-19 also showed that flexible work arrangements are feasible. We are working with employers and stakeholders to lock in the gains in the shifts in mindsets and implementation of good work-life practices, which help parents better fulfil their aspirations both at home and in the workplace.
Economic disruptions during the pandemic have also accelerated Government and industry efforts to strengthen our local workforce. The pandemic has resulted in a manpower crunch felt keenly by our businesses, bringing to light the risks of relying on lower-skilled foreign workers. In addition to helping workers and businesses to tide over the difficult times, the Government has enhanced and extended grants focused on upskilling our local workforce and helping our companies to transform. Many businesses are also accelerating their efforts to transform business models, go digital, and improve productivity.
The full impact of COVID-19 on our longer-term population trends remains to be seen, and the Government will continue to monitor this closely. Meanwhile, we will continue to review our initiatives and strategies to ensure that they remain relevant to our needs.