History of Census Taking in Singapore

Census History

For those who are interested to find out more about the history of Census, Singapore’s first census was taken in April 1871 as part of the Straits Settlement Census. Regular censuses were then undertaken at ten-year intervals up to 1931. The Second World War delayed the next censuses till 1947 and 1957. In 1970, Singapore conducted its first post-Independence population census. Four other censuses were subsequently conducted in 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. The Census 2020 will be the sixth census carried out since Independence and the fifteenth in the series of census-taking in Singapore.

Date
Title
1871
First Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1880
First Census Ordinance in Singapore was enacted
1881
Second Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1891
Third Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1901
Fourth Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore 
1911
Fifth Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1921
First Statistics Ordinance on the establishment of a Statistical Bureau
1921
Sixth Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1931
Seventh Census of Straits Settlements of Singapore
1947
Census of The Federation of Malaya and Colony of Singapore (8th in the series)
1957
Census of Population, Singapore (9th in the series)
1970 First Census of Population, Singapore after Independence (10th in the series)
1980 Second Census of Population, Singapore after Independence (11th in the series)
1990 Third Census of Population, Singapore after Independence (12th in the series)
2000 Fourth Census of Population, Singapore after Independence
First Register-based Census (13th in the series)
2010 Fifth Census of Population, Singapore after Independence (14th in the series)
2020 Sixth Census of Population, Singapore after Independence (15th in the series)

Census taking in Singapore is in line with the recommendation of the United Nations (UN) for a national census to be taken at least once every 10 years.


The 1970, 1980 & 1990 Censuses

In the early censuses up to 1990, census information was collected via field work. The conduct of the Census was a laborious activity. Census officers had to make home visits to each and every household in Singapore to perform face-to-face interviews. Responses to the census questions were then recorded on paper forms and sent back to the census office for processing and compilation.


Register-based Censuses in 2000 and 2010

In 2000, Singapore conducted its first register-based census. Basic demographic data were obtained from administrative records. This was supplemented with a 20 per cent sample enumeration which collected detailed data required for in-depth studies. Steering away from the reliance on field work, a tri-modal data collection approach, comprising of Internet enumeration, Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) and field work, was introduced for the sample survey.

The register-based approach was continued in Census 2010. With the introduction of Ultra-Mobile Personal Computers for the fieldwork collection, majority of the data was captured electronically at the point of collection.