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Culture & People

Our People

The customs and festivals of the different ethnic groups in Singapore highlight the nation's rich cultural heritage. Singapore's people are largely descendants of immigrants from the Malay Peninsula, China, the Indian sub-continent and Sri Lanka. They have gradually acquired a distinct identity as Singaporeans while still retaining their traditional practices, customs and festivals.
Population Profile

In 2000, the total population of Singapore was 4,017,700 of which 3,263,200 are citizens and permanent residents. This is an increase of 2. 8 per cent over the decade. There are three main racial groups, with the Chinese numbering 2,505,400 ( 77 per cent of resident population) , Malays 453,600 ( 14 per cent) and Indians 257,800 ( 8 per cent) . With 1,630,300 resident males and 1,632,900 resident females, the sex ratio was 998 males per 1,000 females. The median age of the resident population was 34.2 years in 2000, compared with 29.8 ten years ago. Residents below 15 years of age formed 21.5 per cent of the population. The proportion of residents aged 65 years and above was 7.3 per cent. Infant mortality rate was 3.3 per thousand resident live births in 1999, compared with 6.3 in 1989. The life expectancy at birth for resident males and females has increased from 72.9 years and 77.2 years in 1989 to 75.6 years and 79.6 years in 1999 respectively.

Early Immigrants

The Malays

Most of the original inhabitants were Malays. Other early immigrants came from the Malay Peninsula and Archipelago, including the Bugis. The first Malays were mainly involved in agriculture or, before Raffles, were camp followers of the Temenggong( Defence Minister) of the Sultan of Johor.

The Chinese

The first Chinese immigrants came from Riau and Melaka ( Malacca) , many belonging to the distinct Baba community ( also known as Straits- born Chinese) . In February 1821, the first junk from Amoy, China, rrived and others soon followed. The Hokkiens from Fujian province formed the largest group. Others included the Cantonese from Guangdong; the nomadic Hakkas or Khehs from northern Guangdong; the Teochews from Shantou; the Kwongsais from Guangxi; the Hokchius from Fuzhou and the Hainanese from Hainan Island. Most were poor farmers, labourers or craftsmen.

The Indians

The first Indians came from Penang and Malacca. Others migrated from the Coromandel and Malabar coasts of Southern India ( mainly from the present states of Madras and Kerala) . They also came from Gujarat, the Punjab, Sind, Bengal and Sri Lanka. The early Indians were soldiers or camp followers and a few were merchants. Indentured labourers were brought in later by the British for construction work. Others worked as clerks, teachers, traders and money- lenders.

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