SINGAPORE (AFP) – Singapore’s population grew at its slowest pace in a decade in the 12 months to June as the government tightened the inflow of foreign workers, official figures showed Thursday.
The statistics department said the city-state had a total population of 5.47 million people as of the end of June, up 1.3 per cent from the year before.
“This was the slowest growth in the last decade, driven by slower growth in non-resident population,” it said.
The number of citizens stood at 3.34 million, up a slight 0.9 per cent from the year before, while those with permanent residency fell 0.7 per cent to 527,700, the department said in its latest population trends report.
According to the statistics, over 29 per cent of Singapore’s population comprises “non-residents” – those working, studying or living in the country but not granted permanent residency.
Including permanent residents, the statistics show that foreigners account for nearly 40 per cent of Singapore’s total population.
Complaints from citizens about overcrowding, foreign workers competing with locals for jobs and resentment over the bad habits of foreigners has made immigration a hot-button issue on the affluent but space-constricted island.
With the complaints becoming more strident especially on social media, the government has taken steps to slow down foreign hiring and the granting of permanent residency status.
The discontent spilled into the 2011 general elections when the ruling party garnered its lowest-ever vote count after more than 50 years in power, and analysts say it remains a key issue for the next election, which must be held before January 2017.
Singapore’s fertility rate also fell to 1.19 babies per woman in 2013 from 1.29 in 2012, well below the 2.1 babies needed to naturally replenish the native-born population, the report said.
In January, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged young Singaporean couples to get off to a “galloping start” in the Lunar Year of the Horse by having more babies to boost the flagging birth rate.