How to reduce the need for 6.9 million population
Besides encouraging Singaporeans to have more babies, we should also look into ways to cope with a low old-age support ratio. Here are some suggestions to increase the workforce from within the core group of citizens and lessen our dependency on foreign care workers. Some of these ideas are not new and have been discussed by others.
- Reducing National Service length — Imagine if NS is cut by one year, which would translate into a whole cohort of male Singaporeans entering the workforce earlier by a year.
- Promoting apprenticeships in place of university studies — An university education is important but its value is diminishing as it becomes commonplace. Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to pick up an industrial skill or corporate experience and an early sampling of a career choice, supplemented with classroom courses for professional development.
- Encouraging part-time studies in place of full-time studies — A full-time university experience may have its advantages, but many have also spent an unproductive few years where coursework took up just several hours a day. The same education could be achieved in a part-time capacity while holding down a job. This is not to demean a full-time education, but to encourage more to consider part-time studies as a viable option and change the stigma that it leads to a lesser degree.
- Promoting healthcare and related studies — Healthcare will be a growing component of our economy in coming years, while some fields such as engineering and IT are becoming less important. These days, how many Singaporeans who studied engineering actually ended up as engineers? How many who studied technology ended up losing jobs to those who simply picked up a book on programming?
- Promoting social care volunteering — With a proper framework for training, qualifications and accreditation, volunteer and unpaid carers can form a significant network to alleviate the demand.
- Raising the retirement age — This seems inevitable, even if unpopular, as productive lifespan increases.
- Promoting part-time work, flexi-work and work-from-home — To encourage full time mothers, retirees and other unemployed to rejoin the workforce.
- Increasing social spending — Funded by higher taxes in various forms, or other ways?
These are just some ideas providing food for thought and there is no guarantee they will work. However, the same could be said with growing the population to 6.9 million, which could have serious ill effects. The point is that Singaporeans will be better convinced if the government spends time debating more ideas, rather than jumping to the conclusion that boosting the population by 30% is the only solution to an ageing population.