Singaporeans or Singaporean people are people identified with or citizens of the city-state of Singapore[2] – a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-lingual country. Singaporeans of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian descent historically make up the vast majority of the population.

Orang Singapura  (Malay)
新加坡人 (Chinese)
சிங்கப்பூரரும் (Tamil)
Total population
c.3.6 million
Regions with significant populations
 Singapore 3,471,900
Diaspora totalc. 265,000
 Australia (main article)63,077[1]
 Malaysia (main article)42,474[1]
 United Kingdom (main article)41,143[1]
 United States (main article)37,106[1]
 Canada (main article)11,731[1]
 New Zealand5,370[1]
 India (main article)4,308[1]
Buddhism · Islam · Hinduism · Christianity

In 1819, the port of Singapore was established by Sir Stamford Raffles, who opened the port to free trade and free immigration on the south coast of the island. Many immigrants from the region settled in Singapore. By 1827, the population of the island was composed of people from various ethnic groups.[3]

According to the 2006 AsiaBarometer survey, a majority of Singaporeans identify themselves as "Singaporean", while a small percentage prefer to identify with their ancestry or ethnic group.[4] As of 2018, the population of Singaporeans stands at 3,994,300 and the population of overseas Singaporeans stands at 216,400.[5]


Indigenous population

The earliest records of settlement on the island dates back to the 2nd century, where the island was identified as a trading port which was part of a chain of similar trading centres that linked Southeast Asia with India and the Mediterranean.[6] The earliest settlers of the island were known as the Orang Lauts, and the island was an outpost of the Srivijaya Empire until it was invaded by the Tamil Emperor Rajendra Chola I of the Chola Empire in the 11th century.[7] A small Malay kingdom, known as the Kingdom of Singapura, was founded in 1299 by a fleeing Srivijayan prince, Sang Nila Utama, who was crowned as the Raja of the new state. After the fall of the kingdom in 1398, the island fell under the suzerainty of various regional empires and Malayan sultanates until its destruction by Portuguese raiders in 1613.[3]

Prior to the arrival of Raffles, there were hundreds of indigenous Malays living on the island under the Johor Sultanate. Most of the indigenous Malays came from the Malay Archipelago.[8] There were an estimated 1,000 people living on the island, who were predominantly Orang Laut with small population of 20–30 Malays who were the followers of Temenggong Abdul Rahman, and about 20–30 Chinese.

Modern Singapore

The majority of Singaporeans today are descendants of immigrants who settled on the island when Singapore was founded as a British trading port by Raffles in 1819, except for the Malays who are indigenous to the region of Malaya.[9] At that time, Raffles decided Singapore would be a free port and as news of the free port spread across the archipelago, Bugis, Javanese, Peranakan Chinese, Indian and Hadhrami Arab traders flocked to the island, due to the Dutch trading restrictions.[10] After six months of Singapore's founding as a free port, the population increased to 5,000, and by 1825, it had passed the ten thousand mark.

In 1957, Singapore attained self-governance and Singaporean citizenship was granted to selected residents who were born in Singapore or the Federation of Malaya, British citizens who had been resident for two years, and others who had been resident for ten years.[11]

Today, Singaporean citizenship is granted by birth, by descent, or by registration. Although provided for in the Constitution, citizenship by naturalisation is no longer granted. The government instead uses the constitutional provision for citizenship by registration to grant citizenship to resident aliens.[12]

Racial and ethnic groups

Singaporeans of Chinese descent make up 74.1%, Malays make up 13.4%, Indians make up 9.2%, and residents of other ethnicity make up 3.3% of the 3,870,739 of the resident population (including persons holding Permanent Residency).[13] To avoid physical racial segregation and formation of ethnic enclaves common in other multi-racial societies, the Singapore government implemented the "Ethnic Integration Policy" (EIP) in 1989 where each block of units are sold to families from ethnicities roughly comparable to the national average.[14] The country also celebrates Racial Harmony Day to commemorate the 1964 race riots in Singapore and to remember the consequences of racial disharmony the country experienced during the 1964 racial riots.[15]

Other minority groups in Singapore include, Arab, Armenians, Chitty, Eurasians, Peranakans and Sri Lankans. There are also many foreign/expatriate communities in the country including the Australians, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Nepalis, Pakistanis, Brits, and Italians.


Singaporean culture is a mix of Asian and European cultures, with influences from the Malay, Indian, Chinese, and Eurasian cultures. This is reflected in the architectural styles of buildings in several distinct ethnic neighbourhoods, such as Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam and Singlish, which is a local creole language which consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese and Tamil, used by Singaporeans in a less formal setting.

Major festivals including Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Vesak Day, Christmas, Good Friday and New Year's Day which are celebrated by the different major racial and religious groups are designated as public holidays.


Singapore is the world's most religiously diverse nation,[16] with Singaporeans following various religious beliefs and practices due to the country's diverse ethnic and cultural mix. Dharmic religions have the highest number of adherents in Singapore, with 33% of the population practising Buddhism and 5.1% of the population practising Hinduism. Many Singaporeans are also adherents of Abrahamic religions, with 18.8% of the population identifying as Christian, and 14.7% identifying as Muslim. Other prominent faiths practised by Singaporeans include Taoism (10.9%), Chinese folk religion, and other Dharmic religions like Sikhism and Jainism. A small percentage of Singapore's population practices Zoroastrianism and Judaism. 18.3% not identifying with any religion and 0.9% of Singaporeans identify as atheist. In addition, practice of hybrid religions is also common such as the incorporation of Taoism and Hindu traditions into Buddhism and vice versa.


Singapore has four official languages, English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil.[17] Malay is the ceremonial national language of the country and is the home language to 13% of the population.[18] Although the younger generation of non-Malay people are non-proficient in the Malay language, Malay is used in the national anthem of Singapore and also in citations for Singapore orders and decorations and military foot drill commands.[19] Singapore English is the de facto lingua franca spoken by Singaporeans.[20] It is officially the main language of instruction in all school subjects except for Mother Tongue lessons and is also the common language of the administration, and is promoted as an important language for international business.[21]


  1. "World Migration | International Organization for Migration". Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  2. Josey, Alex (15 February 2013). Lee Kuan Yew: The Crucial Years. Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd. p. 457. ISBN 9789814435499. By legal definition the Singaporean is a citizen of Singapore.
  3. "History of Singapore". One World Nations Online. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  4. Siok, K.T. (2012). Happiness and Wellbeing: The Singaporean Experience. Routledge. p. 100. ISBN 9781136177088.
  5. "2018 Singapore Population in Brief". Strategy Group Singapore. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  6. Hack, Karl. "Records of Ancient Links between India and Singapore". National Institute of Education, Singapore. Archived from the original on 26 April 2006. Retrieved 4 August 2006.
  7. Heidhues 2001, p. 27
  8. Vasil, R K (2000). Governing Singapore: democracy and national development. Allen & Unwin. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-86508-211-0.
  9. Jenny Ng (7 February 1997). "1819 - The February Documents". Ministry of Defence (Singapore). Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  10. "Singapore – Founding and Early Years". U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved 18 July 2006.
  11. Lepoer, Barbara Leitch (ed.) (1989). Singapore : A Country Study. Washington, D.C.: GPO for the Library of Congress.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link), ch. 10 ("Road to Independence").
  12. "Citizenship rules of Singapore". Government of Singapore. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  13. "Statistics Singapore - Population Trends" (PDF). SingStat. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  14. HDB InfoWEB: Ethnic Integration Policy & SPR Quota : Selling Your Flat Archived 22 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 1 March 2015
  15. "Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the Racial Harmony Day Celebrations on Monday, 21 July 2014, at 9:20am at Elias Park Primary School". MOE, Singapore. Archived from the original on 19 March 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  16. "Global Religious Diversity". Pew Research. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  17. "Official languages and national language". Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
  18. Tan, P.K.W. (2014). Singapore's balancing act, from the perspective of the linguistic landscape. Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, 29(2), 438-436.
  19. Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act (Cap. 296, 1985 Rev. Ed.)
  20. Gupta, A.F. Fischer, K. (ed.). "Epistemic modalities and the discourse particles of Singapore" (DOC). Approaches to Discourse Particles. Amsterdam: Elsevier: 244–263.
  21. "31 March 2000". Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2011.


  • Heidhues, Mary Somers (2001), Southeast Asia: A Concise History, Hudson and Thames, ISBN 978-0-500-28303-5
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