When population booms, inequality looms

The reason is simple – a larger population means more workers, which means the price of labour is lower, workers take home less while employers reap higher profits.

It also means the masses will have to pay more for rent, property and goods in general, which mostly ends up in the pockets of the owners of capital.

The rich gets richer, the poor gets poorer. History is replete with such examples.

Between 1150 and 1300AD, the population of England doubled. The surplus peasants flocked to the cities, causing the population of London to increase from 20,000 to 80,000. Too many hungry mouths and too many idle hands resulted in a fourfold increase in food prices and a halving of real wages.

One of the most important forces affecting the labour supply in the United States has been immigration. As it turns out, the periods of high immigration coincided with periods of stagnating wages.

In Singapore, the size of the population is not determined by nature, but by the visible hand of the government.

The growth in the 60s and 70s was due to high fertility as many families had more than two children, so much so that the government had to introduce the “Stop At Two” family planning campaign.

The campaign was so successful that the fertility rate soon went below replacement level and despite many government incentives to bring it up again, has remained woefully low.

However, many new citizens, PRs and foreign workers were added to the population, the bulk of them in the working age group. Not only did they compensate for the low fertility of Singaporeans, they increased the overall population, substantially.

In 1988, just before the tap for foreigners was to be fully turned on, the population was 2.8m. By 2019, it had doubled to 5.71m.

As a result, real wages for less skilled workers have stagnated or declined since the early 90s, while property prices and the cost of living has been going up. Not surprisingly, many big businesses have been reaping record profits, which benefited investors, top management and the government.

Thus you read of people buying $50m penthouses every now and then, see more Ferrari, Lamborghini on the roads but also old men and women cleaning tables at hawker centres or collecting cardboards.

In 1348AD, the Black Death struck England, along with a series of horrible epidemic. More than half the population perished. The same dynamic that pushed wages down, reversed and pushed wages up. The catastrophe, paradoxically, introduced a Golden Age for the common people. Real wages tripled and living standards went up, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Common people relied less on bread, gorging themselves instead on meat, fish, and dairy products.

Likewise, Covid-19 has reduced the non-resident population in Singapore by 2.1% in June this year as compared to last year. Some businesses are complaining that they cannot get foreign workers. If this pandemic and the restriction of cross border movement of people continue for another two years, wages for less skilled Singaporeans will rise even more. Businesses will have to adapt to the higher labour cost or ship out.

Although the government claims to be trying hard to reduce inequality, it is ironically exacerbating it with its neoliberal policies, including an ever increasing population, fueling the notion that it is hypocritical. Sadly, it is taking a pandemic to reduce inequality.


Foong Swee Fong




9 Responses to “When population booms, inequality looms”


    Apart from being cleaners and cardboard collectors, elderly poor and the needy have no choice but peddling tissue packets outside MRT stations, malls and hawker centres, etc. Yet, this tiny island has 5 mayors?
    Good gracious! Aren’t there ways and means to eradicate this kind of beggary?

    Which ministry is in charge of social welfare? Aren’t there any roaming social welfare officers deployed to round up these TPPs and beggars, investigate and put them in welfare homes or so?

    What a blind eye!

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  • SureDie:

    Thou shall not go global and rape your neighbours and their “garden” but your leaders are not listening so they promote open door policies world wide which had made the rich richer and more powerful and the poor(mass population)…dumb, deaf and blind

    Singaporeans have no conscience. But they love to play the judge over people’s lives because of the strong insidious religious hypocrisy influencing the law petrified populace.

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    Suspect Illuminati is at work and ruling the world under the New World Order.à

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  • MSF:

    So many poor elderly people outside needing help.
    MSF officers should be outside looking for them…not in office waiting.
    Be more pro active lah….

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  • TUMASIK Patriot:

    Karma & RETRIBUTION!!!

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  • An unethical monarchy over us:

    The moneymind dynasty got no idea how to stem the super-inflation of this little state! Just raise backdoor taxes; sell three national power generation plants to foreign businesses …. while these generals reward themselves a ton of wealth thru the people’s CPF savings gets tweaked and calibrated to serve their GLC capital pool!
    Hehehe sekarang super Ginicoefff and the elitists obscene earnings got no trickle-down effects on sheeple leh…. $1300 minimum wage (will be CPF-ed too) is too hard for stoopid to conceive!

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  • Soccerbetting2:

    Reported on the new paper website :Quote -”HDB launches 5,795 BTO flats in 7 housing projects

    ParkView @ Bidadari, which has some 358 three-room and four-room flats, is located next to the upcoming Alkaff Lake and is walking distance from Woodleigh MRT station. PHOTO: HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT BOARD
    Its website experienced heavy traffic due to high interest and there were issues with online applications
    Nov 18, 2020….

    A total of 5,795 Build-To-Order (BTO) flats spread across seven housing projects in five estates were launched for sale by the Housing Board (HDB) yesterday in the final sales exercise for the year.

    Interest was so high that traffic to HDB’s website was heavy last evening. Some flat applicants also faced issues when submitting their applications online.

    HDB reminded the public that the sales exercise is on for a week until Nov 23, and that successful applicants will be determined by a computer ballot and not on a first-come, first-served basis.

    The exercise’s biggest project is the Bishan Ridges, where 1,502 two-room flexi, three-room and four-room flats are on offer.

    The site in Bishan Street 14 is next to the Kallang River and about 400m, or a five-minute walk, from Bishan MRT station.

    Prices start from $374,000, without grants, for a three-room flat and $528,000 for a four-room flat…..

    Prices are slightly higher than the 472 units in Bishan Street 11 launched in the August BTO sales exercise, likely because of its proximity to the MRT station.

    The prices for the August exercise were from $302,000, without grants, for a three-room flat and $484,000 for a four-room flat.

    The estimated completion date is in the second quarter of 2026. When The Straits Times first reported on the flats in October last year before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the flats were due to be ready by 2025.

    Besides Bishan, the other flats are spread across the mature towns of Toa Payoh (Bidadari) and Tampines, and the non-mature towns of Sembawang and Tengah.

    In Toa Payoh (Bidadari), there are two BTO projects. The smaller one is ParkView @ Bidadari, where some 358 three-room and four-room flats are located next to the upcoming Alkaff Lake and is walking distance from Woodleigh MRT station.

    The other is Bartley Beacon, with 880 three-room, four-room and five-room flats on a site next to Maris Stella High School and is within walking distance from Bartley MRT station.

    In both locations, prices start from $324,000 for a three-room flat and $466,000 for a four-room flat.

    Five-room flats in Bartley Beacon start from $627,000, making them the most expensive units in this launch….”Unquote .

    Response : Five-room flats in Bartley Beacon start from $627,000 ? Wow ,HDB prices are going
    skyrocketing !

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  • New Poor:

    Singapore has many NEW Poor.
    Bad Policy….no empathy.
    Should have improved the social net for the bottom 20%.

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  • the conscientiousness:

    //The reason is simple – a larger population means more workers, which means the price of labour is lower, workers take home less while employers reap higher profits.//

    many variables are interlinked ? when labour increases, land space, other important infrastructures (hospital, roads, transport), etc, etc must also scale up proportionately relative to costs / wage of a country ??

    these are only the hardware part (the physical infrastructure), the must also be the software part (the conscientiousness & culture of the labour force to maintain standard and quality must be there also) ???

    now sinkie land is flooded with increasing number of average standard of chat-ba-lang ppl promoted by the open-leg policy from the white monkey idiots and gang ???

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