Census 2020: Key trends of a changing Singapore and what they mean

More educated, higher earning, fewer marriages and babies, less religious and getting greyer. Singapore's demographic evolution is posing challenges, as Insight finds out.

The census is the largest national survey undertaken here on key characteristics of the population. ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN, ALPHONSUS CHERN, KUA CHEE SIONG, NG SOR LUAN

Greying population, silver opportunity?

In a trend reflecting profound changes in attitudes towards marriage and parenthood, fewer Singaporeans are getting married and having children than they were 10 years ago, with younger Singaporeans more likely to stay single.

They are also getting older, and the country is experiencing its slowest decade of population growth since Independence.

The census - conducted every 10 years - surveyed 150,000 households last year for its latest iteration.

It is the largest national survey undertaken here on key characteristics of the population, including demographic, social, economic, employment, housing, transportation and education data.

What are the implications of these changes? What is at stake for the economy and society?


The single (and baby-free) life

Singlehood and childlessness are trends that were set in motion decades ago. The proportion of singles rose across all age groups in the last 10 years, with the sharpest increase among younger residents aged 25 to 34.

The previous decade also saw a similar increase across most age groups.

Singlehood continues to be most prevalent among men with below secondary qualifications and graduate women.


Helping women level up at work

Women have made strides in the workplace.

The share of resident married couples with a working wife increased from 52.9 per cent in 2010 to 60 per cent last year.

The proportion with only the husband employed dropped from 32.6 per cent to 24.9 per cent.

The largest combination - 52.5 per cent - among resident married couples was the dual-career one, where both are working. This increased from 47.1 per cent at the last census, 10 years ago.


More people have no religion

A growing proportion of Singaporeans have no religion. Last year, they made up one-fifth of residents aged 15 and above - an increase from 17 per cent in 2010, and 15 per cent in 2000.

The increase took place across all age groups and most types of educational qualifications. But it was more prevalent among higher-educated, younger, and Chinese residents.


Education and language shifts on the horizon

Residents in Singapore are securing higher academic qualifications, especially university degrees. More can read and write in multiple languages, and bigger numbers are speaking English at home.

But there are downsides such as an oversupply of graduates, underemployment, and the potential erosion of mother tongue heritage, experts tell Insight. And interventions are needed to bridge gaps between ethnic groups, they say.

Census 2020 showed rising proportions of those aged 25 and above attaining at least post-secondary qualifications.


Higher incomes, but mind the job and wealth gap

In 2000, the biggest proportion of resident households - 25.4 per cent - could be found in the $1,000 to $2,999 bracket of monthly income from work. Ten years later, it was those earning $3,000 to $4,999, at 16.2 per cent.

In Census 2020, the largest share - 13.9 per cent - was in the uppermost bracket of $20,000 and over. At the other end, a significant proportion (12.2 per cent) brought home no more than $3,000 a month.

What seems like a case of increasing inequality has more to do with issues of job polarisation and a wealth divide, economists and social scientists explain.

Census reports released this week indicate that Singapore's residents are now earning more, and at higher income brackets.


Of strata titles and stratification

Smaller households - in terms of fewer members - are on the rise. More are staying in condominiums; although for private properties overall, large variations continue to exist between ethnic groups.

These findings from Census 2020 raise key issues around stratification, representation and social cohesion, say experts.

The proportion of one-person households nearly doubled from 8.2 per cent in 2000 to 16 per cent last year. Households with no family nucleus also rose in share from 12.4 per cent to 22 per cent over the same period.

Observers say this can be explained by factors such as low birth rates, acceptance of non-traditional family arrangements when it comes to moving out and getting married, greater financial independence and perhaps even personal preference.


Correction note: An earlier version of this report stated that in 2000, 28.5 per cent of resident households could be found in the $1,000 to $2,999 bracket of monthly income from work. The Department of Statistics has clarified that including employer CPF contributions, the proportion of resident households earning between $1,000 and $2,999 would be 25.4 per cent.

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