SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the White Paper on Population represents a major shift in the way the country grows its labour force.
He was speaking at the ground breaking ceremony of the Home Team Tactical Centre on Thursday.
Acknowledging concerns among citizens about the projected population growth to 6.9 million by 2030, Mr Teo, who is also Minister—in—Charge of Population policies, said the White Paper in fact focuses on the interests and benefits of Singaporeans.
He explained that the government had actually worked out two scenarios and struck a balance between the two.
The first scenario is to freeze at where Singapore is today. This means the workforce will shrink sharply as the population ages.
On the other extreme is to continue growing the workforce at about 3.3 per cent a year which has been done for the past 30 years.
This, Mr Teo said will put very serious constraints on the country.
The decision, he said, was to go midway at half the workforce growth rate up to 2020.
Beyond that, the growth rate will be brought down further to one per cent which is one—third of the labour force growth rate today.
Mr Teo said: "Indeed, we are not going to grow as fast as we used to. Over the last 30 years, growth has typically been in the six to seven per cent range. Going ahead, we will see growth come down to about three per cent up to 2020 but high quality growth, and beyond that 2020 to 2030, we will see two to three per cent growth.
"It is a very different growth pattern compared to previous years. And what we are looking for then, is high quality, productivity—driven growth which will bring good lives, good jobs to Singaporeans."
At the same time, Mr Teo said Singapore would need a complementary group of workers to fill lower—skilled jobs and another group of foreigners who will help kickstart new industries to create jobs for young Singaporeans.
Mr Teo also noted that quite a lot of the discussions are focused on the projected population growth to 6.9 million by 2030.
He said that is quite understandable as people are concerned about competition for jobs as well as infrastructure constraints.
He added that while the government looks to the future, it is also placing a lot of priority on addressing the immediate concerns of housing and transportation.
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