Singapore’s Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) Janice Koh, Eugene Tan and Laurence Lien all lent their voices in opposition to the population white paper over two days of Parliament that concluded on Friday.
[Parliament endorse motion on White Paper by 77 votes to 13]
Koh weighed in on the country’s declining Total Fertility Rate (TFR), contrasting the “women-friendly and family-friendly social policies and labour market practices” adopted by Nordic nations to Singapore’s falling workforce participation rates for women aged 30 and over.
“If this projection of 6.9 million people by 2030 is really a ‘worst-case scenario’... by the same argument, shouldn’t we explore all means and ways to raise the TFR of our resident population under worst-case scenario circumstances?” she said.
Koh then called for “bold measures” in policy to “help women...reconcile work and family life to have a positive effect on fertility.”
Additionally, she questioned the “psychological, social and cultural capacities” of Singaporeans to accommodate the “continued flow of newcomers”.
While echoing Inderjit Singh’s sentiments, she also suggested “looking at increasing social spending as a percentage of GDP to benefit... a larger proportion of Singaporeans, and not just those at the very bottom-rung.”
Koh concluded that “to accommodate the greater diversity and difference in our society”, the aforementioned capacities “need to be built ahead of demand.”
Fellow NMP Eugene Tan was more forthright in expressing his “deep reservations”, questioning if the paper “may turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of a weakened nation not because of a poor economy but...because we continue to dilute what it means to be Singaporean.”
He railed against the paper’s stance on immigration, proposing the “need to... manage the downstream effects and the lived reality that ordinary Singaporeans encounter on a daily basis.”
As a case in point, Tan pointed to instances where foreigners continue to be “ paid more than equally-qualified Singaporeans for doing the same job”.
“What signals are we sending to Singaporeans with this blatant discrimination?” Tan asked.
Lambasting the “unfairness and injustice” behind transport, housing, and education allowances granted to foreigners and not to Singaporeans, Tan stated, “what the Singaporean gets, the foreigner must also get. However, what the foreigner gets, the Singaporean need not get or cannot get.”
Tan further rapped the white paper’s call for the population and workforce to support the economy, asking if it should be the other way round. He ended by asking for “special efforts” to be made for Singaporeans “affected negatively by the immigration policy.”
His comments mirrored the speech made just the day before by NMP Laurence Lien. Lien had rapped companies “addicted to cheap...foreign labour”, while proposing to slow down the influx of “new naturalised citizens” to avoid an adverse influence on “social cohesion and the building of our social identity.”
He had also suggested the population by 2030 to be capped at 6 million, rather than the controversial 6.9 figure put forward by the white paper.