Exploring the White Paper debate

Exploring the White Paper debate

The issue of the White Paper has become the talk of the town lately. We have decided to compile the views of all kinds of people regarding this issue ranging from stay-at-home Singaporean mums to politicians and even foreigners working and living in Singapore. Check out what they have to say here!

Exploring the White Paper debateWhile the White Paper debate is raging on in parliament, it seems like the issue of the White Paper has become a hot topic among Singaporeans as well. One of the main points of the White Paper on Population is that outlines the government's plan to expand the current 5.3 million (3.29m citizens, 0.53m PRs and 1.49m foreigners) to 6.9 million by 2030. The White Paper suggests that by 2030, half of the population in Singapore will be comprised of foreigners.

Strong objections to the White Paper

Judging from a recent poll we conducted on our Facebook page asking for feedback regarding the White Paper, almost all of our readers expressed strong objections to the measures proposed by the White Paper. The Facebook poll has since garnered 42 comments so far.

A Facebook post by Ben Leong, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore entitled, "Why the Population White Paper is Ill-Conceived" has since gone viral online, receiving more than a thousand shares and likes. The popularity of his Facebook post can probably be attributed to the fact that he has hit the nail on the head with his views. In the post, Ben  points out that Singapore is currently facing a multitude of serious problems (COE, property, overcrowding and train breakdowns etc)  but instead of solving them, the government is fixated primarily on Singapore's economic growth and planning ahead when current problems are still a big issue.

Many of our readers also expressed their worries over how the White Paper will negatively affect the future generations of Singaporeans. Isma Iskandar, whose comment on the poll has attracted 11 likes so far states “I wonder how my future generation are going to cope in terms of living and career...it's worrying for me.” Many of our other readers also echoed similar views and concerns over stiffer competition in the job market and in schools are some of the main reasons why Singaporeans seem to be so dead set against more foreigners being allowed into our country.

Singapore too overcrowded?

Looking at the feedback we got, the ambitious plans of the government to further grow Singapore’s population has also hit a raw nerve among Singaporeans. Many of our readers argue that our tiny island seems to be overcrowded already. This view is not unfounded as Singapore’s transportation infrastructure seems to be struggling to cope with the high human traffic. A comment from Stelvin Tham which received 11 likes on Facebook so far supports this notion as he states, “ As a Singaporean living abroad since 2005 and returning to stay for a month last December, the first thing I noticed was how much more densely populated it was…Planning economic growth for the future is admirable and Singapore has always excelled at this. But the people upstairs need to consider human factors and the mental state of its population into account…”

Worker’s Party objects to White Paper

The public does not seem to be the only one strongly objecting to the White Paper on Population. The Worker’s Party has also made very clear it’s stance regarding the White Paper issue. The Singapore Workers Party has suggested that instead of bringing in more foreign talent to increase our labour pool, we should have more Singaporeans enter the workforce. (Our current labour force participation rate was 66.6% in 2012). When we asked our readers what they thought about this alternative solution suggested by the Worker’s Party in a Facebook poll on the 6th of February, many of our readers seem to agree.

The Facebook poll has since garnered 30 comments, 6 shares and 68 likes. Most of our readers suggested alternative measures such as encouraging stay-at-home mums to work from home, childcare subsidies and more flexible hours for working mothers with young children. Allowing stay-at-home mums to work from home seems to be an especially popular suggestion. This can be seen by the fact that the top comment which gained an impressive 23 likes was made by Angelisha Caca who stated that stay-at-home mum deserve to be given the benefit of working from home. In fact one reader, Chippy Anish went so far as to state that “Parents who have children younger than seven years old should be allowed to work from work…” and her view has received a lot of support in the form of 13 likes.

PAP’s rebuttal

The PAP has defended its stance. The PAP has maintained that growing the population by allowing an influx of foreigners is necessary to sustain Singapore’s economic growth. Minister of State (Health and Manpower) Amy Khor has also argued against the Worker’s Party proposal according to an article on the asiaone website. If the Worker’s Party proposal is accepted, Dr Khor states that "many companies are likely to fold or move out of Singapore whilst others will not be attracted to set up shop here resulting in fewer jobs for Singaporeans.”

In his note, Ben also commends the PAP for keeping the unemployment rate at a ridiculously low level and agrees that by stopping the influx of foreigners, many businesses will fold or relocate to another country. He states, " But the bottomline of the White Paper is very simple: like it or not, we're currently on this train. If we are to slow down the train, i.e. cut down in the intake of foreign workers, the train will stall and the fear is that a lot of the SMEs will go under. " Ben also points out how his friends are having trouble recruting local staff to work for their businesses which supports the government's claims that Singapore is suffering from a labour shortage resulting in the necessity for allowing foreigners into Singapore.

What do the foreigners think?

While Singaporeans and politicians have been very open with their views regarding this touchy issue, the views of foreigners living and working in Singapore has largely gone unheard in the media. We thus decided to get some feedback from some foreigners regarding this whole issue. Samantha A (She doesn’t want her surname to be known), 23 from the Philippines who is a local University graduate working at a media firm states, “As a foreigner who has lived, studied and worked in Singapore for 5 years, I know that multiculturalism is an integral part of Singapore. Thus I do not understand why Singapore has become so unwelcoming of foreigners.’  Disagreeing with Samantha, is William Klippgen, a Singapore PR from Norway. "There must be a balance between economic growth and the rights of the citizens to be a majority in their own country. I understand why Singaporeans are upset," he shares.

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Written by

Sean Foo

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