Rising Heat Stress Threatens Singapore’s Economy: Projected Losses to Reach $1.64 Billion by 2035

Heat stress may lead to more than $1.5 billion in economic losses for Singapore

A recent study by the National University of Singapore (NUS) has revealed that Singapore’s economic losses due to heat stress are projected to nearly double to $1.64 billion in 2035 from pre-pandemic levels of 2018. The decline in labor productivity across various sectors, including services, construction, manufacturing, and agriculture, is attributed to the increase in heat stress.

In 2018, heat strain had already caused an 11.3% drop in average productivity, which is expected to worsen in the coming years. According to the NUS Project HeatSafe report, workers who are exposed to adverse environmental conditions such as direct sun exposure or heat from machinery will face significantly higher productivity losses. For every hot day, workers’ productivity during working hours is reduced, leading to a median income loss of S$21 per worker.

The study used 2018 as the baseline for the research as it was pre-pandemic and was the most recent “normal year” for which data was available. Singapore is facing faster warming rates compared to global averages, with recent UV index levels reaching “extreme” levels. This intense heat is not unique to Singapore; scientists have warned about surpassing key warming thresholds globally. The United Nations’ Secretary-General has also raised concerns about moving towards “an era of global boiling” due to increasing temperatures worldwide.

The research emphasizes the urgent need for adaptation and mitigation strategies to address the challenges posed by rising heat levels and their impact on various aspects of society. In addition to affecting cognitive and physical abilities, extreme heat exposure poses a risk to Singapore’s already low fertility rates. Therefore, it is crucial for policymakers and businesses to implement measures that can help mitigate the negative effects of heat stress on both individuals and society as a whole.

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