The first census in Singapore, which was taken in January 1824, recorded 10,683 residents comprising 74 Europeans, 16 Armenians, 15 Arabs, 4,580 Malays, 3,317 Chinese, 756 natives of India and 1,925 Bugis. Subsequent censuses in 1825, 1826, 1827 and after, showed rapid population growth rates on the island and a disproportionately high ratio of men to women.
Though records of the early censuses are no longer extant, secondary sources do provide information on these censuses and composition of the first settlers. John Crawfurd, who was then the British Resident, noted that the native inhabitants consisted of Malays, Bugis, as well as the retainers of Sultan Hussein Shah and Temenggong Abdul Rahman. The Chinese, who made up the second largest ethnic group, comprised the Creole Chinese (Peranakans) and migrants from Macao (Macau), Canton (Guangdong) and Fokien (Fujian). The Indians were from the Malabar region and the Coromandel Coast, while the Europeans were mostly British subjects. Transient visitors, convicts and military personnel were excluded from the censuses.
Though population counts began in 1824, the early census reports were not very accurate as they were carried out by police officers who were untrained in census taking and who also had their primary duties to attend to. They were, therefore, unable to carry out thorough household checks, especially in the outskirts of town.
It was only in April 1871 that the first systematic census of Singapore was conducted. Successive censuses were carried out once every 10 years until 1931. The 1941 census was postponed due to World War II. The census resumed in 1947 and thereafter, censuses have been carried out at regular 10-year intervals.
1. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867 (p. 154). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS].
2. Crawfurd, J. (1830). Journal of an embassy from the Governor-General of India to the courts of Siam and Cochin China; exhibiting a view of the actual state of those Kingdoms (pp. 378–384). London: H. Colburn and R. Bentley. Retrieved May 7, 2014, from BookSG.
3. Saw, S. H. (1969, March). Population trends in Singapore, 1819–1967. Journal of Southeast Asian History, 10(1), 36. Retrieved May 7, 2014, from JSTOR.
4. Crawfurd, 1830, pp. 378–384.
5. Saw, Mar 1969, p. 36; Buckley, 1984, p. 226.
6. Saw, Mar 1969, p. 36; Singapore Department of Statistics. (1999). Singapore Census of Population 2000 – The first register-based census (p. 1). Retrieved May 12, 2014, from Department of Statistics website: http://www.singstat.gov.sg/Publications/publications_and_papers/cop2000/cp-register.pdf
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.