Singapore launches drive to attract immigrants amid baby shortage

SINGAPORE, Aug 21, 2006 (AFP) – Singapore will launch a more aggressive drive to attract immigrants to avert a serious population shortage, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, again urging citizens to produce more babies. Raising the population issue as one of his priorities, Lee said the government would establish a new “citizenship and population unit” under the prime minister’s office to promote Singapore’s immigration program overseas.

“To sustain our growth and prosperity, we need to have enough people living and working in Singapore. This means we must encourage families to have more children, and also attract more new immigrants here,” he said in a televised National Day rally speech late Sunday.

Despite a slew of cash and other incentives, such as longer maternity leaves, there are few signs Singaporean couples are having more children.

Only 36,000 babies were born last year, short of the 50,000 needed to naturally replenish the population.

As of June 2004, the island had a resident population of 3.49 million, comprising of citizens and permanent residents, up 1.3 percent from 2003. On top of this, there were more than 750,000 foreign workers.

One solution apart from urging Singaporeans to have