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Singapore’s population bubble

By Murray Bourne, 17 Oct 2007

This population pyramid for Singapore shows how the baby boomer bulge is moving through the system:

population pyramid
Chart source: The Edge

In the 1970s, the Singapore government instituted a "Stop at 2 babies" policy when it realised earlier population growth was unsustainable. The graph shows how successful that policy proved to be. In fact, the fertility rate continued to drop to its current level of 1.26.

There is great concern about the future implications of this population bulge in Singapore. With one of the most rapidly aging populations in Asia, there has been a flurry of activity at government level preparing for the retirement of so many people. In Committee on Ageing Issues: Report on the Ageing Population (no longer available), we see the following graph, indicating that the expected proportion of over 65s will grow to nearly 19% by 2030.

proportion of over 65s in Singapore

This means that the proportion of working adults to non-working adults will drop considerably.

How to fund all these retirees?

Traditionally, older citizens were cared for by younger family members. It is common in Singapore for 3 generations to live in the one HDB apartment. This was fine when life expectancies were in the 50s or even 60s. But now when someone retires at the compulsory age of 62, they are facing another 20 years of retirement.

Actually, it is not that simple. Many older people choose to continue working, often out of necessity. Retirement savings (through the national CPF system) for the current batch of over 59s is abysmal:

CPF retirement savings in Singapore
Total CPF Savings at Age 55 Among Elderly Who Were Age 59 and Above in 1999 [Source link no longer valid]

It is sad that the traditional extended family appears to be breaking down. How will retirees support themselves if their children do not? The government has been topping up retirement savings of the worse-off residents, but will this be enough?

Interesting days ahead.

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