Metrication in Singapore



Metrication refers to the process of adopting the metric system of measurement.1 The metric system was introduced in Singapore in the 1970s; prior to that, several systems of measurement were used in Singapore.2

Background
Before the metric system was introduced in Singapore, the imperial system had been widely employed in the public sector, commercial areas and major shopping centres. Traditional measurements – such as the pikul, gantang, chupak, kati and tahil – were also used for certain commodities and the retail trade.3 As the metric system had had become the norm in many countries, including several of Singapore’s major trading partners, Singapore also decided to go metric.4

In December 1968, the Singapore government indicated its intention to adopt the metric system, and the Ministry of Science and Technology was tasked to study the impact of the change.5 In response, the ministry prepared a white paper titled “A Report on a Study of the Proposed Conversion to the Metric System in Singapore”, which was submitted to Parliament on November 1970.6 The paper recommended the implementation of the metric system in phases, starting with the public sector and expanding to the private sector.7 In addition, two bills – the Metrication Bill, which introduced the International System of Units, or Système International d'Unités (SI), pertaining to weights and measures; and the Weights and Measures (Amendment) Bill, which legalised the use of SI units in trade – were passed by Parliament and came into force on 15 February 1971.8

Singapore Metrication Board
The Singapore Metrication Board was formed on 13 December 1970 to guide and stimulate the process of metrication. The board was represented by economic, industrial and professional organisations appointed by the Ministry of Science and Technology.9 Singapore adopted the SI metric system, which is based on seven basic units: metre, kilogram, second, ampere, kelvin, candela and mole.10 Supplementary and derived units of the SI were also adopted.11 All government and statutory boards were instructed to convert to the system quickly and comprehensively in order to set pace for the private sector.12 The metrication of the public sector was targeted for completion by the end of 1975. The effects of metrication were far-reaching, extending into many areas of public and commercial life such as transportation, trade, education, the postal service, packaging industries, public utilities, land surveys, retail trade, amongst others.13 Examples of metric conversion included changes to speed limit signs, school textbooks, utility bills, building plans, canned and packaged products, and office supplies.14

Publicity efforts
To educate the general public and industries on the metric system, a series of publicity campaigns and activities were carried out over the years. The Singapore Metrication Board conducted talks on metrication, and held exhibitions to educate the public on the SI units.15 Metrication messages were also broadcast over the radio and television and published in the newspapers.16 To raise awareness, a logo design competition, drama competitions, fashion shows, contests and quizzes were held. The board also produced and distributed collaterals such as posters, pamphlets, brochures, conversion cards and booklets, guidebooks and calendars.17 In August 1972, a month-long campaign was launched at the People’s Park Complex to encourage the public to buy textiles in metres. The following year, a similar campaign was carried out at the Joo Chiat Constituency.18 From 1977, the board organised a Zonal Metric Educational Programme to reach out to housewives in public housing estates.19


Official implementation
On 1 April 1981, the Weights and Measures (Sale of Goods in Metric Units) Order came into operation. The metric system was adopted in phases across industries. Goods such as textiles, groceries, vegetables, meat, meat products, seafood, fruits and others had to be sold in metric units.20




Author

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia



References
1. Customs and Excise Department. (1971). Customs goes metric. Singapore: Customs and Excise Department, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.152 SIN)
2. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
3. Ministry of Science and Technology. (1970). Report on a study of the proposed conversion to the metric system in Singapore. Singapore: Government Printers, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.152 SIN); Organisation of the Singapore Metrication Board. (1973). Paper submitted by the Singapore delegation to the Metrication Conference, London. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.152095957 PAP); Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
4. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board. p. 12. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
5. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Ministry of Science and Technology (1970). Report on a study of the proposed conversion to the metric system in Singapore. Singapore: Government Printers, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.152 SIN); Singapore Metrication Board. (1971). Annual report 1971. Singapore: The Board, p. 37. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
6. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 12. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Ministry of Science and Technology. (1970); Singapore Metrication Board. (1971). Annual report 1971. Singapore: The Board, p. 37. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
7. Singapore Metrication Board. (1971). Annual report 1971. Singapore: The Board, p. 37. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
8. Singapore Metrication Board. (1972). Annual report 1972. Singapore: The Board, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
9. Singapore Metrication Board. (1972). Annual report 1972. Singapore: The Board, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
10. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Mesenas, C. (Ed.). (1976). Metric now: [Your guide to metrication in Singapore]. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 23. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.152095957 MET)
11. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
12. Organisation of the Singapore Metrication Board. (1973). Paper submitted by the Singapore delegation to the Metrication Conference, London. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 6. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.152095957 PAP); Metric now: [Your guide to metrication in Singapore]. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 23. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.152095957 MET)
13. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, pp. 13, 23–28. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Singapore Metrication Board. (1981). Annual report 1980/81. Singapore: The Board, pp. 9, 12. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Organisation of the Singapore Metrication Board. (1973). Paper submitted by the Singapore delegation to the Metrication Conference, London. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, pp. 7–9. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.152095957 PAP)
14. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, pp. 23–24, 27–28, 32. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Singapore Metrication Board. (1981). Annual report 1980/81. Singapore: The Board, p. 9. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
15. Singapore Metrication Board. (1981). Annual report 1980/81. Singapore: The Board, p. 14. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Singapore Metrication Board. (1971). Annual report 1971. Singapore: The Board, p. 39. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 53. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
16. Singapore Metrication Board. (1971). Annual report 1971. Singapore: The Board, p. 39. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
17. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 53. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Singapore Metrication Board. (1974). Annual report 1974. Singapore: The Board, p. 25. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Ian, J. (1976, July 2). Going metric by way of drama. New Nation, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Singapore Metrication Board. (1976). 3 years of metrication in Singapore, 1971–1973. Singapore: Singapore Metrication Board, p. 53. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
19. Singapore Metrication Board. (1981). Annual report 1980/81. Singapore: The Board, p. 14. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR)
20. Singapore Metrication Board. (1981). Annual report 1980/81. Singapore: The Board, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 389.1520615957 SMBAR); Singapore Metrication Board. (1981, February 20). [Weights and Measures (Sale of Goods in Metric Units) Order 1981] [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/; Trade talk. (1981, February 21). The Business Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2017 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.

Subject
Metric system--Singapore
Trade and industry
Commerce and Industry
Science and technology>>Physics>>Instrumentation and measurement