Photo of Ng Eng Hen from Straits Times Mark Cheong

According to Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, local emergency ambulance services deployed by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will now have access to cheap labour National Service conscripts from the SAF Medical Corps. The SAF medic conscripts, paid as low as S$750 a month, will cost a quarter of the price of a full-time medic.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Military Health Exchange co-organised by the United States Pacific Command today (May 23), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that demand for ambulance services have grown in recent years and that the army conscripts can gap-fill the vacancies:

“A review by the SAF Medical Corps on these requirements is expected to be completed soon, and changes will be implemented progressively over the next few years… From September, SAF medics will also be deployed on Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulances in a three-month pilot project. Singapore’s medical needs have grown amidst an ageing population, in contrast to the military’s declining manpower. Twelve SAF medics – 10 full-time NSFs and two regular servicemen – will be attached to SCDF ambulances and work closely with SCDF’s medical personnel… The Home Affairs Ministry had projected a 6 per cent increase in calls for ambulances and emergency treatments—thus the need to expand the Republic’s ambulance fleet.”

Minister Ng Eng Hen also revealed that conscript enrollment will see a sharp decrease by up to one-third by 2030 due to falling birth rate. There was however no mention of imposing conscription on new male citizens or the impact of falling birth rate on defence strength.

Singapore has world’s lowest birth rate in the world at a birth rate of 0.82, due to mandatory conscription and increasing cost of living. Also putting off young couples is the country’s lack of social safety net and family support, as having a family is financially-devastating in the world’s most expensive city.

Photo of NS enlistee from SAF Facebook

Many Singapore’s conscripts are also highly critical to National Service due to unfair treatment. New citizens are excused conscription and foreigners gain an upper hand when it comes to employment opportunities. Singaporean males are however able to circumvent the disadvantages brought on by NS reservist training exercises by emigrating overseas. Currently, over 213,400 Singaporean citizens resides overseas and about 11,000 gives up their citizenship each year – with more males than females doing so.