atans1

Why S’pore industrialised in the 60s

In Economy, Political economy on 29/11/2017 at 4:43 am

Local historian Loh Kah Seng posts articles on Facebook about the industrialisation of S’pore. Here’s one piece that I tot would interest because it shows the link then betweewn GDP growth and how it benefited the ordinary S’porean:

The main reason why Singapore pursued rapid industrialisation after the Second World War was not that the existing economy, based on the entrepot trade, was doing badly.

It was rather the high population growth rate, as increasingly people settled down in Singapore instead of returning to their home countries.

In the 1930s, more Chinese women entered Singapore and formed families. Just before war broke out, the Deputy Controller of Chinese Labour reported ‘swarms of Chinese children in their teens, mostly local born, and still more who have not yet reached their teens’.

This trend increased near the end of the Japanese Occupation, when multiple children were born, who became known as the postwar ‘baby boomers’.

In 1961, Singapore had a population of 1.6 million. The growth rate between 1947 and 1957 was 4.5% per annum – the highest in the world – while the size of a nuclear family in was 5.4 persons in 1957 and 5.6 in 1970.

Goh Keng Swee’s study of low-income households in 1956 found that a fifth of the households lived in poverty, with a monthly income under the minimum of $102.

High population growth created impending problems of employment and dependency. Under the entrepot economy, many of the growing children and teens would likely be unemployed or underemployed. Furthermore the entrepot trade was unlikely to grow. A youthful two thirds of the population would have to rely on the work of a third.

Labour-intensive industries, on the other hand, would absorb many more people. The aim of the State of Singapore Development Plan for 1961-1964 was to increase the number of jobs for young people entering the workforce each year.

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  1. The point of his post is not about GDP growth but rather the type of economic development favoured – labour intensive for its capacity to a young growing population. One can generate plenty of GDP growth through an entreport strategy but it wouldn’t have solved the employment issue.

  2. Spectre of high unemployment was also the main motivation of old fart’s stop at 2 & people earning less than $200 a month to “never to have more than 2 …. correcting a trend which can leave our society with a large number of the physically, intellectually and culturally anaemic.”

  3. Yes and look at the success of the Singapore economy now. So it has paid off well over the longer term. They seem quite good at planning longer term in Singapore, whereas Europe these days seems to be just so short term.

  4. […] Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Why S’pore industrialised in the 60s – MothershipSG: Old Woodlands Town Centre is no […]

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