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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        18 January 2011

Singapore fertility falls to record low

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Preliminary estimates show that Singapore's total fertility rate dropped to a record low of 1.16 in 2010.This is even lower than the 1.22 in 2009, and well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said the number of new Permanent Residents in 2010, was halved from a year ago.

Mr. Wong, who heads the newly formed National Population and Talent Division, revealed the numbers as he laid out the country's long-term strategy for managing population growth.

After an influx of foreigners during the boom years, the government took steps to mitigate their inflow in 2010. Criteria for PR status were tightened, while more was done to integrate new citizens.

The move comes amid growing discomfort among Singaporeans over the increased presence of foreigners in the country.

29,265 foreigners became permanent residents last year, a sharp drop from the 59,460 in 2009, and 79,200 in 2008.

The country's aging population and low fertility rate means that the government will need to tap on immigration to augment the population.

Singapore is still facing the problem of having not enough babies. Mr. Wong said the government will continue to support couples' decision to get married and have children. He added authorities will aim for a pro-family environment but he also acknowledged that boosting fertility will take time.

In a speech on "Inclusive Growth" delivered at the Singapore Perspectives Conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng reiterated that citizens' interests will always come first.

Growing the population, Mr Wong explained, provides the critical mass to attract investors and grow domestic markets.

The key is in attracting the right kind of people.

"Singapore's population story is still evolving. Looking ahead, continual refinements will need to be made at appropriate junctures to ensure that Singapore will remain our best home. Like other countries around the world, we must continue to welcome suitably qualified people to work and live in Singapore and contribute to our society," said Mr Wong.

Mr Wong described these "suitably qualified people" as an "improvement in the quality of new PRs".

According to the latest population census, PRs in Singapore tend to be better educated. Almost half of the PR population last year were degree holders, compared with 18 per cent of citizens.

The number of new citizens remained relatively steady at 18, 758 in 2010, compared to 19,928 for 2009.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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