Singapore : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
82 years

5,412,000 (2013); 100 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 2.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 10 per 1,000 people (23 in 1970); life expectancy 82 years (69 in 1970).

The population is predominantly Chinese (77 per cent in 2000 census), with Malays constituting 14 per cent and Indians eight per cent, and small minorities of Europeans and Eurasians.


English, Chinese (Mandarin), Malay and Tamil are the four official languages. Several other Chinese dialects are spoken, the most prevalent being Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew. Singaporeans are mostly bilingual, in a mother tongue and English (the administrative language).


Buddhists 34 per cent, Christians 17 per cent, Muslims 14 per cent, Taoists 11 per cent and Hindus five per cent (2010 census).


Public spending on health was two per cent of GDP in 2012. Private health care predominates in the primary sector; 80 per cent of hospital care is through public provision. There are more than 20 hospitals, ten of which are government-run. Employees pay into a health insurance fund known as Medisave (which is part of the wider social welfare provision of the Central Provident Fund). There are three medical schools in Singapore, two located at the National University of Singapore and one at Nanyang Technological University. Infant mortality was two per 1,000 live births in 2013, the lowest rate in the Commonwealth and among the lowest in the world (31 in 1960).


Public spending on education was three per cent of GDP in 2013. By the 1990s, primary education was virtually universal. There are six years of compulsory education starting at the age of six. Primary school comprises six years and secondary four, with two cycles each of two years. Secondary education is streamed at three levels, according to measured ability, leading to junior college or vocational institutions. Some 99 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2008). The school year starts in January.

The principal universities are the National University of Singapore (founded in 1905); Nanyang Technological University (1981, as Nanyang Technological Institute); Singapore Management University (2000); Singapore Institute of Technology (2009); and Singapore University of Technology and Design (inaugurated in May 2012). National University of Singapore has 36,000 students from 100 countries; Nanyang Technological University, 33,500; and Singapore Management University, some 7,200. SIM University, a private university founded in 2005, offers academic programmes aimed for working professionals. There are several other private universities, most of which are in partnership with business schools or technology institutes in Europe or the USA.

Other tertiary institutions include the National Institute of Education (founded 1950, as Teachers’ Training College, becoming part of Nanyang Technological University in 1991); Singapore Polytechnic (1954); Ngee Ann Polytechnic (1963); Temasek Polytechnic (1990); Nanyang Polytechnic (1992); Institute of Technical Education (1992); and Republic Polytechnic (2002). Co-operation between industry and technological education is well developed, and retraining and education for older adults is an important goal. There is virtually no illiteracy among people aged 15–24.


There are several daily newspapers, among which The Straits Times (founded in 1845), Business Times and Today are in English. Other dailies are in Chinese, Tamil or Malay.

MediaCorp, owned by a state investment agency, provides public TV and radio services.

Some 98 per cent of households have TV sets (2006). There are 697 personal computers per 1,000 people (2009).


Country code 65; internet domain ‘.sg’. Mobile phone coverage is excellent. Internet cafes and post offices are located throughout the country.

For every 1,000 people there are 364 landlines, 1,556 mobile phone subscriptions and 730 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

New Year’s Day, Labour Day (1 May), National Day (9 August) and Christmas Day.

Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Chinese New Year (two days), Good Friday, Vesak Day (Buddha Purnima, April/May), Hari Raya Puasa (End of Ramadan), Hari Raya Haji (Feast of the Sacrifice) and Deepavali (Diwali, October/November).