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Singapore in Numbers - Population by Age and Race

In our second in the series of analyses of the 2020 Singapore Population Census, we will be exploring 2 more aspects of the Singapore Population - Age and Race.

With reference to the above extract, the Census report indicates that Singapore's old age dependency ratio increase quite significantly between 2010 and 2020; while the racial mix remained quite consistent even as the population grew. While the Census report is intended to be a summary, the details reveal more insights.

Snapshots of Singapore's old age dependency provides data from only 2 points in time. A longer term view shows that Singapore's old age dependency has been growing quite steadily from 1970 to 2010; after which it showed a sharper increase from 2010 to 2020. But Singapore is also made up of different races.

Data shows that the Chinese have always had a higher old age dependency as far back as the 1970s The Malays continue to have a lower old age dependency. Old age dependency among Indians was lower than the Chinese but crept up as high as the Chinese over time. But after 2003, old age dependency for Indians fell sharply and fell to similar levels as the Malays. After 2010, the old age dependency rose across all races; but the worrisome trend is the significantly higher old age dependency among the Chinese which could be a precursor to future social issues among the Chinese community.

While it is true that the racial composition among Singapore Residents hasn't changed much in the last 10 years; but such changes should be considered over a longer frame to fully appreciate the changes. The 30 years between 1990 and 2020, the percentage of Chinese and Malays have decreased by about 1% each ; while the percentage of Indians and Others have grown a corresponding 1% each. But Singapore residents are made up of Permanent Residents (PRs) and Citizens.

While Singapore's poor fertility rates are a contributing factor, the racial composition among PRs appear to be a more significant factor. Data shows that the racial composition among citizens has remained stable over the last 30 years. However, the racial composition among PRs are quite different. Chinese continue to make up the majority among PR and quite similar to the citizen population. There is almost no Malay PRs. The key observation is the significantly larger percentages and numbers of Indian and Other PRs. while PRs make up only 9% of the population in Singapore, the changes in the racial mix over the last 3 years are likely to be due to different racial mix among PRs.

Key Observations

  • The rise in old age dependency is Singapore over the last 10 years is higher than it has been historically and probably worth studying why and how this will trend going forward. But more importantly, new solutions and approaches should be considered as to how this impacts many aspects in Singapore.

  • The data further suggest that that the old age dependency issue will impact the races differently. The Chinese community will experience the impact much earlier and in greater numbers.

  • While the racial composition among residents has remained stable in Singapore in the last 10 years; there are notable changes and shifts over the last 30 years. Data suggest that this is likely due to the different racial mix among the PRs.

For more information about the above charts and trends, please go to our interactive dashboards

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