Singapore Must Look at Trimming Population, Economy is Not Everything!
While the world has seen volleys after volleys the last few years on how machines will take away jobs from humans I am not certain the warning signals have been heeded to by establishments in Asia – a region that has the distinction of being the biggest contributor to the global population mess.
Stealing technologies and aping the developed West in everything except population control, Asia and the Islamic world have differentiated themselves from the visionaries in one area of life – that of the procreation variety.
For the logical mind, the alarming mass of human resources in Asia amid an emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI)-centric employment landscape is a matter of serious concern.
Region of Opportunity?
Businesses, however, see Asia as a region of opportunity as they have more than four billion people to sell their ware to.
The affluent West is reaching a saturation point in terms of business potential, with the population paling to insignificance when weighed against Asia which is bursting at its seams.
Nonetheless, Asia, which should be the most worried, appears least perturbed primarily because it views the population boom as a boon as multinational companies will focus more on the region. That could keep the region’s economy buzzing even as an acceleration in people losing jobs is on the horizon.
Unemployment Creeping up in Singapore
This is precisely what Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was talking about in his May Day address, as reported in the local media. His message was simple: “Singapore’s economy is picking up and may do better than it did last year. However, unemployment is also creeping up”
The implication, even a direct inference, is that the Government exchequer can be expected to expand while its constituents take a hit.
Economy in Transition? Or a Maturing Economy?
Mr Lee’s reference to an economy in transition is appropriate as the world is bracing up for major workforce disruptions, enabled by AI-based technological advancements even as billions of smart devices are bursting on the scene in an era of the Internet of Things. An era where people face the threat of having to jostle with the likes of robots and drones for jobs!
Where clarity evaporates is when Mr Lee says “As the economy matures, I expect that to creep up.”
in my opinion, Singapore is a part of the developed world and, therefore, already a mature economy. I don’t see any reason why maturity in the economy is not in place. So, actions are needed to change the course of the economy, with priority on jobs for locals and not on affluence of the establishment.
It may be a matter of fact that other developed countries have unemployment rates of 5 per cent or higher but that is not going to be of any comfort to those losing jobs. Particularly if job losses are due to easy access to foreign personnel.
Asia accounts for 60% of the world’s population, which is set to hit eight billion soon. China and Asia alone account for about 40% of the global population. China recently even abandoned its one-child policy as the idea of more people translates to more opportunities for businesses.
Singapore Must Trim Population
I do realise foreigners in Singapore are finding it hard to get permanent residence. If they are lending value to the economy I will welcome the granting of PR to them. But I see too much mediocrity from across the shores. As I had pointed out in my earlier posts, even foreign diploma holders are landing jobs here when locals with degrees find it a struggle.
Singapore must look at ways to trim the population early without doing all it can to boost it and make living in the country difficult for residents. If a country is made up of 40% foreigners that is a sorry state of affairs when even in countries that are hundreds of times bigger it stands at just around 20% – for instance, in the U.S.
There have been reports about Singapore continuing with its tradition of land reclamation to accommodate more people. That amid the threat of global warming, melting glaciers and rising sea levels gobbling up land!
SkillsFuture and “Adapt and Grow” Initiatives
Initiatives such as SkillsFuture and “Adapt and Grow” are laudable, given that upskilling and lifelong learning are essential amid the fluidity all around. Still, they appear to me as mere exercises in escapism.
Business that fail to tap outsourcing or technologies or show an unwillingness to train locals to overcome any gaps in skills can be allowed to scoot. They will be disadvantaged more than Singaporeans as at least they will get back the high quality of life, beyond lucre, they were used to.
If protectionism, in terms of trade and jobs, is in the interest of the industrialised West, it is their prerogative and the rest of the world seeking alms from them only amounts to looking for the easy way out, demonstrating a sign of weakness.
The answer lies in Singapore looking at the interest of its people first, even if that meant turning protectionist.
G Joslin Vethakumar