This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Singaporean Xenophobia

It was almost a year ago that I commented on a plan by the government of the wealthy city-state of Singapore to bring in more immigrants to shore up its faltering demographics. Singapore's total fertility rate has dropped from 3.1 in 1970 to 1.3 in 2012, according to official government statistics. At the same time, life expectancy is very high, and the population is aging, thus leading to the government's decision to bring in "new recruits." Well, it seems that things haven't been going so well. Thanks to Peyton Dobbins for alerting me to a story in Stratfor discussing recent riots in Singapore--not this time by Singaporeans upset at new immigrants, but by Indian immigrants upset at their poor treatment. 
Tensions came to the fore Dec. 8 during an episode of uncharacteristic violence. Some 400 immigrants, most of whom were Indian, Bangladeshi and Nepalese workers, rioted after an Indian national was hit and killed by a bus. They set fire to nearby vehicles and attacked police and emergency services workers. Violence subsided only after roughly 300 police officers were deployed to the area. Two days later, authorities charged 24 temporary workers from India with inciting riots.
Although Singapore occupies a peninsula at the southern end of Malaysia, only 13 percent of the population is Malaysian. More than three-quarters of the population is ethnic Chinese, and Indians represent less than 10 percent of the population. These ethnic differences, which manifest themselves in different languages and religion, create xenophobic strife. Like their co-ethnics in China, the Chinese Singaporeans are not having many children, choosing to have scarcely more than one, but investing a lot of time and energy into the success of that child. The Indian population, like co-ethnics in India, have a slightly different view of the world, and this doesn't seem to go down well. Xenophobia is never pretty, no matter where it pops up. Still. as the article notes, Singapore does not have many choices, given the very low birth rate:
Once a fishing village and now one of the world's wealthiest polities, Singapore owes much of its economic success to liberal immigration policies. That many of these policies coincided with economic duress created concern among the public, forcing the government to maneuver accordingly. Though no one expects the ruling party to lose its hold on power, the government will probably be forced to appease voters further in the run-up to 2016 elections. Singapore will thus continue to try to balance the political consequences of high foreign populations with future economic vitality.
It seems likely that the Singapore of the future will be a different country, in a very real sense... 


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