SINGAPORE: Singapore's population could hit 6.9 million in 2030 - up from the current 5.3 million - if strategies outlined in the White Paper on Population to mitigate the country's ageing and shrinking population are met.
The population projection also takes into account a lower GDP growth rate beyond 2020.
The White Paper on Population, released on Tuesday, is the first comprehensive report to outline the country's strategy to ensure a sustainable population.
The numbers are grim -- by 2025, Singapore's citizen population size will start to decline.
Between now and 2030, over 900,000 baby boomers will retire from the workforce -- that is more than a quarter of Singapore citizens.
At the same time, Singapore's fertility rate has been falling. For the past 30 years, the total fertility rate (TFR) has been below the replacement level of 2.1.
Last year, the TFR was about 1.3, according to preliminary figures.
By 2030, more people will exit than enter the workforce. By 2050, there will be more people above the age of 50 than younger Singaporeans.
It is an outlook that has prompted the government to say it needs to act now, before it is too late.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "This White Paper is the first time the government has set out a comprehensive population roadmap to strike the best balance in our population policies."
At the heart of the White Paper's strategy lies 3 principles -- maintain a strong Singaporean core, create good jobs and opportunities for Singaporeans, and have a high quality living environment.
Strategies to maintain the Singaporean core by encouraging marriage and procreation were released a week ago. But it will be a challenge for Singaporeans to replace themselves.
The proposal is to take in 30,000 new permanent residents (PRs) every year, which will keep the PR population stable at 0.5 to 0.6 million. From this pool, take in 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens each year to stop the citizen population from shrinking.
At this rate, by 2030, Singapore's resident population, made up of citizens and PRs will hit about 4.4 million.
Non-residents, making up mostly of transient workers, will hit 2.5 million -- up by about a million from the number today.
This will bring the total population numbers to between 6.5 and 6.9 million, by 2030.
Mr Teo said: "Going forward, we want to make sure that the roadmap that we have is an appropriate one, and if we focus on those key issues, making sure that we have enough young Singaporeans, a population structure that can provide for our seniors.
"Second, that we have an economic structure that will provide for good jobs that an increasingly better educated Singaporean population wants. And we can provide a high quality living environment.
"I think if we can do these three, then we look at the population number and the population we need to achieve these three objectives and that's the way we looked at it.
"So the growth rate of both the workforce and the population will be half to a third of what it has been in the last three decades, and we have to strike a fine balance because if we don't grow at all, or shrink, then we'll face all the problems of an ageing population, the lack of dynamism in the economy which some of you are concerned about.
"But if we grow too quickly, then we may go beyond the constraints we have. So we've been trying to find the appropriate balance."
The population projections are based on certain assumptions -- that the stretched productivity target of between 2 and 3 per cent for this decade is further moderated to between 1 and 2 per cent between 2020 and 2030; and a workforce growth rate that dips from the 3.3 per cent growth over the last three decades, to just 1 per cent between 2020 and 2030.
At those numbers, the country's GDP growth beyond 2020 will likely fall to between 2 and 3 per cent a year, from the current 3 to 5 per cent projection for this decade.
But the country's leaders stress that lower growth does not necessarily mean lower quality growth.
Mr Teo said the aim is for high quality productivity-driven growth that will create an economy that will provide better jobs for Singaporeans.
While the government is playing catch up now to ramp up infrastructure to support the current population, moving forward, the government said it will build ahead.
It also addressed concerns that Singapore may one day become congested like Hong Kong.
Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said: "Hong Kong in terms of density is much higher, and we must never try to reach that area -- whether in terms of household size, or in terms of crowdedness, or in terms of lacking in greenery and of course the other aspects of population, etc.
"I think we are far away from that and I think we have to keep it that way. I think whatever we do we are quite clear, keep quality of living high.
"In fact, good urban planning to achieve high quality of living is a top priority for the government because this is a key to our survival." Mr Khaw added that Singapore is unlike other cities which have hinterlands.
Long-term planning beyond 2020 includes setting aside land to build 700,000 more homes and doubling the rail network.
The White Paper on Population is the result of almost a year-long public consultation where the government received close to 2,500 responses.
The issues will be debated in Parliament in February.
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