26 Feb 2006

The shift intensifies


Only 45,000 more Singaporean voters in last 5 years, lowest rise in modern history, thanks to globalisation. By Seah Chiang Nee.
Feb 26, 2006

The newly released registration of voters, in advance of the coming general election, has revealed the significant extent of Singapore's demographic shift.

It shows the number of new registered voters in the past five years has increased by a paltry 45,000 - or just 9,000 a year - despite a rising population.

The new voters are people who had reached 21 years old as well as foreigners who got citizenship during the period.

This is surprisingly low considering Singapore's birthrate two decades ago when this cohort of voters was born was around 45,000 to 50,000 a year.

By extension - all else being equal - the increase in new voters should have been around 220,000 (subtracting deaths) - not just 45,000 - over the past five years, so where are the missing Singaporeans?

At the peak, the number of new voters rose from 1.192 million in the 1976 election to 1.424 million in 1980, a four-year increase of 231,900.

This was a rise of 58,000 a year - six times more than at present.

Since then, the statistics had been mixed, some years better than others, but generally the trend had been downward.

The current rise of 9,000 new voters a year is about the lowest in modern history.

Since 1998, the number of new voters had been growing by less than 10,000 a year, a pale comparison of the past pre-global years.

The table (official statistics) shows the general decline between elections since 1968, when independent Singapore held its first election.

This figure is not new but it merely reflects a trend that dates back about 10 years, especially since Asia's financial crisis in 1997.

It also means the growth in new voters has been dropping even as the population is rising.

The reasons? Broadly speaking, it is due to more Singaporeans migrating or moving overseas to work, study or do business, some bringing along their families.

With the exception of some 800 people, they are non-voters.

(Voting is compulsory, and anyone who doesn't do so has to re-register by proving they were out of the country. The lower figure could also include some people who have failed to re-register.)

At the same time, some 30,000 foreigners are taking up PR - permanent residency - a year, inflating the population but who are not eligible to vote.

The real reason, however, lies in economic globalisation and China's opening up. They eliminate jobs in some countries, while creating new opportunities in others.

This has resulted in a great trans-national movement of business and talent worldwide as skilled workers move freely in search of opportunities.

It has affected Singapore more because of its small size.

The exact number of Singaporeans who are living abroad is not known, but various official sources have put it at between 100,000 and 150,000.

A head count is hard to do. The future intention of many overseas Singaporeans remains uncertain.

An increasing number of better-educated citizens take up PR, but not citizenship, in their host countries. This indicates they still keep one foot at home for a possible return.

Those who emigrated in the past decade generally found Singapore too small or restrictive and have opted for a more relaxed lifestyle in larger countries like Australia, the United States, Canada and Britain.

Some may decide to settle down in their new homes, while others will eventually return when opportunities improve.

Numbering thousands every year, the exodus has long caused heartache to Singaporean leaders who have worked for decades building up the republic from a Third to a First World state.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew once shed tears over the exodus of professionals, and Goh Chok Tong, the Senior Minister, called the emigrants "quitters".

The current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also emotionally recalled the tough qualities of older Singaporeans, who stood in the heavy rains to celebrate National Day in 1968.

Since then, however, the leadership has accepted the inevitable.

As more tertiary-trained youths leave to work abroad, it encourages them to explore opportunities overseas but maintain their links with home.

Singapore is likened to a capital without a country, so the current strategy is to regard the world as its hinterland.

It has been investing in strategic businesses throughout the region, requiring more citizens to work overseas.

As a result, the country is undergoing vast demographic changes, as shown by the declining number of new voters.

Its own birth rates are in sharp decline. Last year only 37,600 babies were born, one of the world's lowest. The future lies in inward immigration.

This has been stepped up drastically in the past decade, steadily pushing up the population. In fact, the influx of foreign PRs has outweighed the outflow of citizens by several times.

They are believed to be more than the number of babies born, which would lead to a long-term dilution of the local content of the population.

The population rose from 4.24 million in 2004 to 4.35 million last year, an increase of about 111,000, some 80% of which were said to be foreign immigrants.

Only some 30% of PRs eventually take up citizenship.

The blueprint is for a population of six to seven million by 2020. Many locals are angry about losing jobs to foreigners but officials say the end result will be a more vibrant global city.

(This article was published in The Sunday Star on Feb 26, 2006)


Parkaboy said...

The overseas voter situation is so outrageously full of shit. I'm a S'porean citizen living in London and I would dearly love to vote [the PAP's lardass out of power] but I CAN'T because you can't register as an overseas voter if you've lived abroad for too long and you aren't government affiliated. You have to be a government scholar or on military service or on government service or working for the UN and similar organisations to vote as someone living overseas. It's a restriction that makes no sense whatsoever (except from an advantaging-PAP standpoint). I've basically been disenfranchised for not being government-affiliated. How ridiculous is that? It can't even be motivated by fraud concerns since if that were the case, no one outside of Singapore should be able to vote at all.

ted said...

Anyway, how to be a vibrant global city when everything is almost shut down after 2 am. Even in the city centre...sheesh.

Anonymous said...

if 45K new 21 yer old voters join the list each year, but 35K people die, then over 5 years the increase is about 50K, assuming no PRs become citizens

it is actually the low no. of PRs becoming citizens, or insufficient singapore "globalizing" other people, that causes the small increase; the inflow has not been enough to overwhelm the outflow

clyde said...

I share parkaboy's sentiments. If it's one thing the govt is good at, it's making certain people feel isolated from their own country. The government is finally feeling the bite of emmigrating Singaporeans and I can only wonder what they will do to attract and keep S'poreans at home. Let's not forget PRs too, considering they form a large demographic of residents in the country. Whether you agree or not, I get the impression they are losing many 2nd generation PRs as well because of their strict policy on NS. And strictly being word-of-mouth, I heard of a guy who was told he could not return to SG to work even as a foreigner unless he served his 2yrs or more. Such threats certainly don't breed a sense of home for PRs who have to choose between greener pastures and....home. And many of these kids are bright kids going to medical school, law etc overseas. It's a dilemma to relax NS policies or lose your young PRs.

Oh and ted, SG isn't that bad. In many other places i.e. UK, Aussie etc, everything closes by 5. Yes...5PM.

ted said...

At least in Sydney, the City centre is still very lively at 2am on the weekends. In Singapore, you see people staggering towards the waiting cabs or groups of teenagers being checked for their IDS by the men & women in blue.

Anonymous said...

well, sg garmen claims that sg is a democratic society and is going to be a vibrant society too!!

If it is so, why must garmen worry so much, right? those who go out of the country will come back to their home-sweet-home "automatically without much persuasion", isn't it?

Anonymous said...

that's right; they will comeback because of the casino

Anonymous said...

also for the Progress package, wage bonus and NS merit pay!!

Anonymous said...

...The government is finally feeling the bite of emmigrating Singaporeans...

Ever read "Atlas Shrugged"?

In certain disenfranchised situations, the most effective response (in the long run) is to silently and passively withdraw support.

Anonymous said...

putting it too strongly; singaporeans are not disenfranchised. However, with the same group of people running the lion's share of the economy including the media, there is common fear that unapproved views would not be heard, but would bring longlasting consequences; the fear can only be overcome if people actually see wide varieties of views, which of course would not happen if the fear persists; the cycle cannot be broken merely by saying "it is not so; there is nothing to fear"

Anonymous said...

that's right. as you can see that the oddies are coming out to sing the same chorus again.

Parkaboy said...

"putting it too strongly; singaporeans are not disenfranchised."

I CAN'T VOTE. I think that counts as disenfranchised.

Anonymous said...

probably because you get walkovers, but then it is the fault of the opposition not standing

as for why opposition is so weak, well it is not much of a career path, is it; as for whose fault is that...

KnightofPentacles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
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