The number of foreign workers in Singapore rose by about 100,000 as of the end of June this year from a year ago despite measures to slow their influx, government data released on Friday showed.
The 7.2 percent increase in the number of non-residents -- those working, studying or living in Singapore but not granted permanent residency -- was "due to strong manpower demand", the National Population and Talent Division said.
The rate was higher than the 6.9 percent increase in 2011, but markedly lower than growth of 19 percent seen in 2008, the NPTD said in a report, adding that the number of non-residents rose to 1.49 million from 1.39 million.
Authorities have been phasing in measures to tighten foreign worker inflows after facing flak from Singaporeans who accuse foreigners of competing with them for jobs, housing, schools and space on public transport.
Citizens have also complained that the influx is eroding their national identity.
The discontent spilled into general elections in 2011 when the ruling party garnered its lowest-ever vote count after more than 50 years in power.
NPTD said the foreign manpower policy measures "will continue to tighten in 2013" but added that the changes will be made "gradually and carefully".
Officials have said Singapore still needs the inflow of foreign workers as citizens are not producing enough children to maintain the population.
The NPTD said that Singapore's resident total fertility rate -- defined as the average number of live births per woman during her reproductive years -- was at 1.20 in 2011, up from 1.15 in 2010.
However, it was still well below the 2.10 level needed for the population to replace itself naturally.
Singapore's ideal population size? We can afford six million, says PM Lee
Yahoo! NewsroomYahoo! Newsroom – Sun, Sep 23, 2012
That's the total number of people Singapore can afford to accomodate in the near future, says Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as quoted by Channel NewsAsia.
Responding to a question from the host during a recorded panel discussion on MediaCorp, PM Lee said, "It's very hard to give a concrete figure, because the situation is evolving. We're gradually increasing our land area, and if we rebuild our older towns,then we can accommodate more people."
"Today our population is over 5 million. In the future, 6 million or so should not be a problem. Beyond that, we'll have to think more carefully," Mr Lee added.
He was responding to a question by host Chun Guek Lay who had asked what was Singapore's ideal population target.
As of December last year, Singapore's population stood at 5.26 million.
Singapore's ideal population size has been a bone of contention in recent years as the country struggles to cope with the influx of foreigners and a record low birth rate.