Christianity, non-religious register biggest growth: Census 2010

Posted on 13 January 2011

Singaporeans have also grown more educated, and more likely to be single over the past decade, reveals first release from the once-in-a-decade exercise.

By Terence Lee

THROW a stone at a group of people walking down Orchard Road, and you are more likely to hit a Christian or non-religious person now more than a decade ago.

Both groups have registered the strongest growth among Singapore’s resident population over 15 years old (Singaporeans and permanent residents), according to the first statistical release from the Census of Population 2010, which was made available yesterday.

The Census is a once-in-a-decade exercise by the government to detect population trends, which is useful for policy-making.

Buddhists, however, may not be too pleased by the results. While Christianity and the non-religious have grown to about 18.3 percent and 17 percent respectively, the proportion of Buddhists has declined to 33.3 percent.

They still form the largest religious bloc though.

The drop in Buddhist believers corresponds with a rise in the number of Christians and non-religious among the Chinese, with both categories seeing growth within the ethnic group.

Taoism has also enjoyed a slight increase to 10.9 percent, a curious fact considering how the religion is perceived as being in decline.

The Malays, however, have registered the least growth among all ethnic groups when it comes to university education. Only 5.1 percent of Malays make it to university, compared with 2 percent in 2000.

Hinduism has grown from 4 to 5.1 percent, an amount that is perhaps significant considering the small size of the Indian population here.

The Census establishes that the more educated you are, the more likely you will cast off religion: While 24 percent of university graduates claim to have no religion, only 9.9 percent of those with only pre-secondary education would profess no religious belief.

But Christianity remains fashionable  among the educated: 32 percent of university graduates worship Christ, more than any other religion.

Moving on from matters of faith to issues of the heart, singlehood has become more popular among Singaporean adults –surely a concern for the Singapore government. Among the 30-34 year old group, the proportion of singles have risen by about 10 percent for both males and females.

Interestingly, among the 40-44 year olds, men with below-secondary education are more likely to be single than female university graduates, while males with degrees are quite in demand.

The institution of marriage appears to be eroding somewhat, although the effect is slight.

More couples are getting divorced or separated, although the figure remains small at 3.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the proportion of married people has dipped slightly to 59 percent.

Even among couples, more are opting not to have children. Childless females aged 30-39 has risen from 14 percent in 2000 to 20 percent today.

While Singaporeans may be more cautious about raising families, they are also getting more educated.

The number of Singaporeans obtaining at least post-secondary education has risen to 49 percent from 33 percent.

University graduates have almost doubled to 23 percent.

The Malays, however, have registered the least growth among all ethnic groups when it comes to university education. Only 5.1 percent of Malays make it to university, compared with 2 percent in 2000.

The Indians are perhaps the most educated of the lot, with 35 percent having finished university compared to 22.8 percent for the Chinese.

This statistical release will be the first of many from the Singapore Department of Statistics. Future releases are expected to touch on the economy, housing, and travel.

This post was written by:

- who has written 81 posts on New Nation.

Terence is an online media nut that is obsessed with writing and publishing on the Internet. Recently, he took up photography to expand his repertoire, and hopes to learn videography soon. He has worked in both online and print publications such as The Straits Times, Today, Mind Your Body, The Online Citizen, and Funkygrad. He is currently the assistant editor with SGEntrepreneurs, a website that covers entrepreneurship in Singapore and Asia. Terence can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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  • Landon Leo

    Although there are no statistics here, but maybe it might be interesting to look at Islam’s growth?

    Also, seems to me (at least from what I personally experience after tracking most of my Malay classmates from secondary school) that despite of less Malays going to university, they are more willing to marry and start families at a younger age. That, I do not think I can ‘beat’ them!

  • terence

    Hey Landon,

    statistics are provided in the actual census. I’ve not included it here because the story is the same: Islam is pretty much stayed the same over the years, mostly because of its tight-knit community.

  • OrderOfTheBeng

    The writers here are SICK and twisted!!!
    So are the writers from SPH – using STATS to JUSTIFY that Christianity is “popular”.

    Honey, its a religion, NOT a TREND.

    What kinda mentality you are promoting?
    It’s cool to be Christian? Meaning, what? You think one choose religion because everyone else is doing it.

    得绕人畜且扰人 – no pt using STATS to play up Christianity’s superiority.


    Why? Because Straits Time has conveniently “omitted” the key figures of GROWTH in other religion that’s picking up yet choose to FOCUS on ONE PRIME and use the religion with a bad PR case (Ming Yi) and promote the “wellsomeness” of being Christians.

    ALL RELIGIONS MUST RISE UP FOR RELIGIOUS HARMONY!!! No ONE religion is superior than another!!!

  • terence

    wah i write straight up news report also can be accused of promoting christianity. you all win liao. I’m also promoting the non-religious what.

  • Landon Leo


    Their tight-knit community (regardless Islam-related or not) is something I always envy.


    If this helps you : Try reading beyond the lines and look into the writer’s heart. At least what I can tell you is New Nation =/= SPH.

  • Nurulhuda

    Landon Leo says: “Although there are no statistics here, but maybe it might be interesting to look at Islam’s growth? Also, seems to me (at least from what I personally experience after tracking most of my Malay classmates from secondary school) that despite of less Malays going to university, they are more willing to marry and start families at a younger age. That, I do not think I can ‘beat’ them!”

    It will be interesting to see the stats of the numbers of Malays declaring themselves as Muslim. I can bet you that the numbers of Muslims moving away from Islam is on the rise. I am an apostate of Islam. There are many like me out there, while some dare enough to come out in the open, others are trap because of family pressure. If you look at the past stats, it clearly shows that there’s an increase in the number of non muslim Malays. Though small and look insignificant, but there’s a gradual increase. As the Malays become more educated, they too began to move away.

    • Fatouma

       Malays are more opened to atheism, look at their statistics of no religion. I know many non-religious Malays. Many Chinese Malays contribute to the Christian rise and this is evidetable because the uneducated (literacy among the Chinese Malays is very low) and the poor are often prone to following missionaries due to financial benefits etc There are as much ex-muslims and ex-Christians. The Ex-Muslims are more appealing because Christian groups love to say that Islam is decreasing and their religon is the only true one. All religion is bull to me, strive on the poor and uneducated.

  • Dannon

    @ OrderOfTheBeng,

    seriously, your name calling and brash assault against the writer and creators of NewNation leaves much to be wanted for.

    If you have read the article properly, it is simply an objective report of the results of the Singapore Census 2010. There is nothing opinionated about it and there is no “statistic playing” going on.

    As a Christian myself, I am not ‘impressed’ whatsoever about the statistical findings. A statistic is just a number – that’s all. Anything else is a result of your own bias and (uninformed) opinions. One should not read more into it then what is actually there.

    Prompting that “ALL RELIGIONS MUST RISE UP FOR RELIGIOUS HARMONY!!!” will only cause DISHARMONY rather than HARMONY. Tolerance and acceptance should be advocated instead of active competition.

    If ranting was your goal, we already have TR for that.

  • Landon Leo


    Yes, very true of what you said, especially the family pressure part.

  • NMadasamy

    I’m very skeptical with stats because they not necessarily show the real picture. Belief cannot be measured with numbers. I wonder will the Malay/Muslims really want to know the real numbers of Malays moving out of the Islamic faith? Even if there is, will the number be the accurate. How many Muslims there are out there who never practice and admit that they have no more faith in their religion, but go along with the flow because they don’t want to create an issue.

    • Landon Leo

      Create an issue? Maybe. I think it might also be that the govt also want to avoid such an issue, not just Muslims themselves. If this is true, I believe this is done with Singapore’s safety in mind.

  • kelvin

    Real Buddhists on the Rise

    Eventhough the census showed decline of Buddhist percentage, but the actual Buddhist practitioners increased. Quality is essential as compare to 20 years ago, not many nominal Buddhists actually know Buddhism. The trend also happen in other East Asian countries, like Taiwan, a SUDDEN SURGE of Buddhists was due to the increase of spiritual and socially engaged Buddhists. This happenned in Japan too, where after world war 2, the emergence of Soka Gakkai (Nichiren)and other lay Buddhist groups showed the increased of actual Buddhist practitioners.
    Buddhists in the world are between the range of 0.8 to 1.2 billion and not 360 million as reported. The same sign is happening to mainland China, Korea.

    Like in Singapore, the British colonials did not support Buddhist institutions unlike Chritianity. Buddhism was prosecuted by the last Dynasty in Korea and now is catching up. So as in Japan, military gov during the war did not support Buddhism. Only after the war, Buddhism started to grow. In Taiwan, little support from the government during Chiang Kai Shek period, Buddhism is growing only recently due to own effort. Communist China supress Buddhism, but only recently this was relaxed, Buddhism just started to regrow back.

    The drop in percentage did not reflect on the drop of numbers and quality Buddhist practitioners, scholars and spiritualists. This is only a temporary trend. The Buddhist communities still have many works to do to educate and increase active practioners.

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  • FrznFlame

    One reason for the lack of appeal for Buddhism is the religion’s core value that does not sell well with youths of modern society. Namely, advertising. Buddhism has always focused on developing the individual, incalcating values such as respect towards all living things. Unlike the other religious counterparts who believe in advertisinng and selling themselves so as to ‘help more people’, Buddhism operates on the basis of inclusion, focusing on developing their followers rather than excessive reaching out.
    Even when other religions poke fun at te religion, the buddhist community tend not to respond aggressively as they do not see value is such acts of persecution. Noble as it may be, many myopic youths see this as being weak, since the buddhists ‘don’t dare’ to persecute. Interestingly, religious leaders from other religions have used this as an argument to put dowm Buddhism.
    THe dwindling numbers are worrying but Buddhism is going to stay the same way for quite a while.

  • kelvin

    Buddhist Transformation

    Actually, many Asian Buddhist worlds are undergoing transformation. These transformations are triggered by the modernisation of the country, melting point of world cultures, internet/informations access and also response to aggresive christian evangelisation.

    It will came to a point where many Buddhists adopt Christian methodologies to evangelize through relief missions, charity, educations and even missionaries. Buddhists still has many things to learn especially in the methodologies to evangelize.
    In the past 10 to 20 years, many ‘Protestant’ Buddhists sprung up and evangelize worldwide and adopt some methods from Christian. The impact will be seen for the next 10 to 20 years.
    This religion is undergoing readjustment and transformation in its approach to emphasis on lay followers.

  • xnsdvd

    Am I the only one who LOLed really hard at the Beng’s comment? Wish he’d post another one :p

  • suria

    christianity and atheism indeed is the most growing religious in Singapore with Christianity being faster, buddhism itself worldwide has not received significant growth. Same Christians conversion trend is occurring among the Chinese society of neighboring Indonesia(it’s already majority in Indonesia with around 70-80% ethnic Chinese), Malaysia, and even China but not so much in traditionally Buddhist country like Thailand or Taiwan, however the number of Christians there has risen significantly compared to past
    God’s work is so significant for our society and may we live in harmony
    islam among the malay has declined from 15.3 in 1990, 14.9 in 2000, to 14.7 in 2010 and is in slow decline, while some still hide their real fate, in fear of family conflict

    • Fatouma

       “God’s work” is bull. Its the missionaries that increase the religion and you and I know this. It is evident in Japan’s history and Korea’s.