Singapore Table of Contents
Singapore had a population of 2,674,362 in July 1989 and the low birth and death rates common to developed economies with high per capita incomes. In 1987 the crude birth rate (births in proportion to the total population) was 17 per 1,000 and the death rate was 5 per 1,000 for an annual increase of 12 per 1,000. The infant mortality rate of 9.1 per 1,000 in 1986 was quite low by international standards and contributed to a 1987 life expectancy at birth of 71.4 years for males and 76.3 years for females. As in most developed countries, the major causes of death were heart disease, cancer, and strokes. As of 1986, 74 percent of married women of childbearing age practiced contraception, and the total fertility rate (a measure of the number of children born to a woman over her entire reproductive career) was 1.6, which was below the replacement level but comparable to that of many countries in Western Europe (see fig. 5).
Since the city's founding in 1819, the size and composition of Singapore's population has been determined by the interaction of migration and natural increase (see table 2, Appendix). Throughout the nineteenth century, migration was the primary factor in population growth. Natural increase became more important after the 1920s, and by the 1980s immigration and emigration were of minor significance. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Singapore's population was composed largely of immigrant adult males, and grew primarily through immigration. By the 1920s, the proportion of women, the percentage of the population that was Singapore-born, and consequently the relative contribution of natural increase to the population, all were increasing. By the 1947 census, 56 percent of the population had been born in Singapore, and there were 1,217 males for every 1,000 females. The 1980 census showed that 78 percent of the population had been born in Singapore and that the sex ratio had reached 1,042 males for every 1,000 females.
Migration to Singapore dwindled during the Great Depression of the 1930s, ceased during the war years of 1941 to 1945, and resumed on a minor scale in the decade between 1945 and 1955. Most nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century immigrants came from China, India, or Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. Between 1945 and 1965 immigrants came primarily from peninsular Malaya, which shared British colonial status with Singapore and so permitted the free movement of people between Singapore and the rural areas and small cities of the peninsula. After independence in 1965, Singapore's government imposed strict controls on immigration, granting temporary residence permits only to those whose labor or skills were considered essential to the economy. Most such workers were expected to return to their homelands when their contracts expired or economic downturns made their labor redundant. Illegal immigrants and Singaporeans who employed them were subject to fines or imprisonment. The immigrants of the 1980s fell into two distinct categories. The first category, unskilled labor for factories and service positions, was composed largely of young unmarried people from Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and India. Regulations prohibited their marrying without prior official permission and required women to be tested for pregnancy every six months--measures intended to make it difficult for them to attain Singaporean residence or citizenship by becoming the spouse or parent of a citizen. The second category comprised skilled workers, professionals, and managers, often working for multinational corporations. They came from Japan, Western Europe, North America, and Australia. Predominately middle-aged and often accompanied by their families, they were immigrants only in the strict sense of the government's population registration and had no intention of settling permanently in Singapore.
The 1980 census reported that 9 percent of Singapore's population were not citizens. The aliens were divided into permanent residents (3.6 percent of the population) and nonresidents (5.5 percent). The acquisition of Singapore citizenship was a complex and often protracted process that began with application to the Immigration Department for permanent resident status. After residing in Singapore for two to ten years, depending on skills and professional qualifications, those with permanent resident status could apply to the Registry of Citizens for citizenship. In 1987 citizenship was granted to 4,607 applicants and denied to 1,603 applicants. The 1980 census showed that 85.5 percent of citizens had been born in Singapore, 7.8 percent in China (including Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan), 4.7 percent in Malaysia, and 1 percent in the Indian subcontinent (including Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka). Singapore's government, keenly aware of the country's small size and the need to survive by selling the skills of its citizens in a competitive international marketplace, was determined not to permit the citystate to be overwhelmed by large numbers of unskilled rural migrants. In 1989 Singapore mounted a campaign to attract skilled professionals from Hong Kong, offering a Chinese cultural environment with much lower living costs than Hong Kong's. At the same time, however, that the government was attempting to attract skilled professionals, Singaporeans themselves were emigrating. From July 1987 to June 1988, records show that 2,700 Singaporeans emigrated to Australia, 1,000 to Canada, 400 to the United States, and 97 to New Zealand. A large number of the emigrants were university-educated professionals, precisely the category that Singapore wished to keep and attract. In 1989 a special government committee was reported to be devising policies to discourage emigration by professionals and managers.
Data as of December 1989
Singapore Table of Contents