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Singapore's Lawrence Wong flags ‘structural decline’ without migrant workers

Bloomberg • 2 min read
Singapore's Lawrence Wong flags ‘structural decline’ without migrant workers
Dorms in Singapore.
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Singapore’s declining birth rate and its ageing population require a sustained yet well-calibrated influx of migrant workers, according to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.

“If we are not able to bring in immigrants to top up the population then we are in structural decline, and eventually the population will decline, the workforce will decline and Singapore will decline,” Wong said at the Reinventing Destiny conference in Singapore on Monday.

At the same time, Wong said Singapore is controlling the number of immigrants who will be allowed to work and that the number isn’t limitless nor excessive. “At the end of the day, the numbers are constrained by how much we are able to integrate the new arrivals” and how the migrants “embrace our values and way of life.”

As a small, open economy, Singapore relies on foreign workers to help meet its labour needs. Yet immigration rules have tightened in recent years as the government needs to strike a balance between protecting local jobs as well as ensuring that it has enough resources to meet the demands of an increasing migrant population amid slowing economic growth.

“We will not have the ability to integrate all of them into our society,” he said. “A small proportion will come in as permanent residents and it’s gated, it’s regulated. And we want to make sure that those who come in as permanent residents and eventually citizens are the ones who have the best chance to integrate into our society."

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