Singapore witnesses drop in population for first time since 2003 as foreigners exit
SINGAPORE CITY (SINGAPORE) – For the first time since 2003, the population of Singapore has registered a slump as travel restrictions and job slashes triggered by the coronavirus pandemic have led to the exit of foreign workers from the international business hub.
According to an annual population report, the overall population dropped by 18,000 people, or 0.3%, to 5.69 million.
The sudden dip in the number of foreign workers, down 2% to 1.64 million, and the slight fall in the number of permanent residents were more than the spurt in the number of citizens who returned from abroad.
“These trends were largely due to COVID-19 related challenges, brought about by weak demand and travel restrictions,” the report said, adding that the loss of jobs in the services sector, which heavily relies on low-paid workers from overseas, was another factor.
The slump in economy is estimated to be between 5%-7% for the year and the government has been placing more barriers for foreign hiring to protect jobs for locals.
But authorities say that such populist measures could affect business in the corporate hub, which is the Asian headquarters of several MNCs.
“We must be careful not to give the wrong impression that we are now closing up and no longer welcoming foreigners,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier this month.
Over the past two decades, the country’s non-resident population has more than doubled.