Guess! How many foreigners are there to Singaporeans?

Is it five Singaporeans to every foreigner? Is it three? Is it two? Have a look:


In 2013, it was a staggering 1.59 Singaporeans to 1 foreigner.

At a press conference yesterday, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say revealed that the latest numbers were 2 Singaporeans to 1 foreigner. (By ‘foreigners’ we mean permanent residents and non-residents which include those who were studying, working or living in Singapore, less tourists and short-term visitors.)

Contrast this with the ratio of 6.20 in 1990.

Our population is growingly diluted. So when Ministry of Manpower continues to restrain the growth of foreign manpower, this is the reason.

There are some businesses and industries that are labour intensive…and we can’t expect the capitalist to care about Singapore’s social needs. But that is exactly why we need tight knit co-operation between businesses, government and trade unions – you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours.

Let’s have a look at the figures again.




Despite the overall decrease in average annual growth in permanent residents and non-residents over the years, we have to understand that slowing growth is still growth.

In 2014, the average annual growth of non-residents dropped to 2.9% from 4.0% in 2013 as a result of fewer foreigners being hired. Yet at the same time, the population of Singapore citizens grew at the same pace (0.9%).

At this rate, we will soon see the day when Singapore citizens get outnumbered by foreigners.


While we worry, can it be avoided?

Can we really do away with foreigners?

The above pie chart illustrates the breakdown of non-residents. Evidently the majority of foreigners here, are here for employment. If we do reduce the pie, GDP and productivity will be affected in our already tight labour market. In short: our own wages and livelihood will be affected.

You cannot say, ‘Let us do away with the GDP; why must we work so hard to increase the economic digits?’ This is the equivalent of proclaiming, ‘Take away my standard of living – reduce us back to where we were in the 1960s.’ Therefore, no, we cannot do away with them and this is inevitable.

Whoa, then like that how? Maybe we should prepare ourselves for a non-Singaporean Singapore and have more babies to replace foreign labour in another two decades (Lol). Yes, I’m kidding you. I’m sure your babies won’t want to work in the manufacturing, construction or processing sectors (not to mention domestic helpers).

I’m not discriminating, just stating the hard truth.



What can be done is for our economy to be manpower-lean, and rely less on foreign labour. Perhaps foreign workers should be replaced by technology wherever possible, so that the dependency ratio ceiling can be further reduced.

Human resource policies must also be tweaked, refined and changed to adapt to the new nature of our labour landscape. Wages are bound to go up in such an environment, but such wage increases must be pegged to productivity and profits, otherwise it is unsustainable and in the long run will result in larger job losses instead.

It is a tricky new world we are living in, where international borders are blurred and competition invades our lives whether or not we welcome it. We must all learn to adapt.

Here’s a quote from Darwin to think about: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Data used in this analysis was retrieved from the Department of Statistics, Ministry of Manpower.

(Update) A spin-off article: 176,000 foreign PMEs in Singapore: Do local PMEs have a fair shake?





  1. Think the Citizens are talking about taking less EPs(employment pass holders)or Managerial posts than the lower work-force personal!
    This way more Singaporeans with qualification can do the managerial work than given to the foreigners.
    Food for thought :)

  2. Perhaps the Service sector can be split into Retail, and Service. I understand that the competition for jobs are usually in skilled/managerial corporate positions. F&B and Retail are suffering because of the current ratio, because Singaporeans do not want to work in these industries.

  3. Not only Singaporeans will be outnumbered, I personally have been told flatly in my face that without we “Malaysians” by different Malaysians that Singapore would have been long dead not forgetting they have the benefits to start with low package. Afterwhich, they can demand for an ever increasing wage package that ultimately would compromise our labour market landscape. It is high time local citizens are being taken care off with their appropriate skills, ” deep roots” and ” native culture ” to retain the main core of labour supply. Human resources are what Singapore have only. With LKY’s legacy, our never say die, literate and diligent Singaporeans will continue to forge, strive and thrive to keep the little red dot on the world’s map.

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