Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Population growth slowest in 3 years

FEELING the heat of the economic downturn, Singapore's population growth eased to its slowest in three years to 4.99 million as at end-June.

The 3.1 per cent growth from a year ago was lower than the 4.3 per cent and 5.5 per cent growth seen in 2007 and 2008 respectively, data from the Department of Statistics (DOS) shows.

The number of Singapore citizens increased by 1.1 per cent to 3.2 million in 2009, while the number of permanent residents grew 11.5 per cent to 530,000.

Foreigners make up 25 per cent of the Singapore's population. The pace of growth among this segment eased to 4.8 per cent this year, compared to growth rates of over 10 per cent in 2008 and 2007.

Economists were unsurprised by the data, which they felt was in line with the bleak job market this year.

CIMB-GK economist Song Seng Wun noted that the decline in growth of foreigners here shows the flexibility of Singapore's labour market.

'Going forward, population growth underscoring labour demand growth will be contingent on the recovery profile,' he said.

OCBC economist Selena Ling said that she believes such deceleration of population growth, especially involving foreigners, is a blip and should improve with the recovery in the global economy and the opening of the two integrated resorts here.

The Population Trends 2009 report released yesterday also gave a grim snapshot of Singapore's ageing population trend, falling fertility rates and a delay in marriages.

The median age of Singaporeans rose to 37 years in 2009 from 20 years in 1970. Elderly persons aged 65 years and above make up 8.8 per cent of the resident population in 2009, up from 7 per cent in 1999.

The ratio of working-age residents to elderly residents has also declined. In 2009, there were 8.3 residents aged 15-64 years for every resident aged 65 and above, compared to an old-age support ratio of 10.1 in 1999.

Interestingly, the number of marriages last year hit a record high since 2000, with a total of 24,596 marriages registered here. However, marriage rates fell across the younger age groups below 30 years in 2008, suggesting that people are delaying marriage.

The median age of first marriage across all educational groups also increased. For brides with university qualification, the median age of first marriage has reached 28.2 years in 2008 from 26.8 years a decade ago. For grooms in the same educational group, that has risen to 30.1 years from 29 years.

'There is also a tendency towards delay in child-bearing,' said DOS. 'While the peak in fertility was in the age group 25-29 years in 1990, the peak has moved to the age group 30-34 years from 2002 onwards.'

Fertility rates have fallen across all age groups over the past two decades, with those in the 25-29 years age group registering the largest decline from 110 births per 1,000 women in 2000 to 79 per 1,000 women in 2008.

But there were slightly more babies born last year, which may be attributable to the enhanced baby bonuses doled out by the government. The number stood at 39,826, a 0.9 per cent increase from 2007.

Source: Business Times, 29 Sep 2009

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