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September 30, 2009

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Singapore frets over influx of foreigners

SINGAPORE'S population has grown to almost 5 million and a quarter of that is foreign workers, whose influx has sparked concerns among its citizens about competition for jobs and living standards.

The non-resident population in the financial and shipping hub, from Swiss bankers to Filipino maids, climbed nearly 5 percent in 2009, following on from two years of even stronger growth when booming Asian markets attracted workers.

The government's annual population report said the number of foreigners getting permanent residency status also surged more than 11 percent in 2009. Foreign workers looking to avoid leaving the city-state after losing their jobs could account for part of that increase, analysts said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said earlier this month the government will restrict the flow of foreign workers after the global economic recession hit Singapore's growth, while still recognizing the city-state still needs foreigners.

"For a small country like Singapore, acquiring and nurturing human talent is a matter of survival," Lee said in a speech yesterday.

The government has said it wants to raise long-term economic growth by increasing the population by 35 percent over the next 40 to 50 years through immigration, a policy that has been criticized by Singaporeans, themselves mostly immigrants from China, India and Southeast Asia.

The Temasek Review, an online discussion Website, said in an article on the population figures that the relentless influx of foreigners had led to rampant inflation, sky-rocketing prices for government flats and a stagnation of lower-income wages.


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