Diversity is the key to Singapore's population of 2.8 million. Chinese
constitute 78 percent, Malays 14 percent, and Indians 7 percent.
The remainder consists of many nationalities. Chinese migrated in
waves from southeast China. The Hokkien from southern Fukian province
account for nearly 45 percent of Singapore's Chinese.
The Teochew, from Chao'an county in Guangdong province, also have
a significant presence, constituting 22 percent. Cantonese and Hakka
account for the remainder. Among these groups are an increasing
number of Baba, or Straits Chinese. The Baba speak English or Malay
as a first language but maintain a primarily Chinese culture.
Traditionally, they were the offspring of Chinese immigrants and
Singaporean women; today the term is applied to anyone with a Singaporean
lineage of several generations.
Malay-Singaporeans are mostly descendants of immigrants from the
Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, or other islands of the Malay Archipelago.
Indians first arrived from Penang and Malacca, with others following
later from the east via India and Sri Lanka. About two-thirds of
the Indian population consists of Tamils from southeastern India.
Others include Malayalis, Punjabis, and Gujaratis.
The four official languages of Singapore include Mandarin, English,
Malay and Tamil. Although Singapore is a country of immigrants,
its people possess a distinct and proud identity.
The government has worked assiduously since independence to foster
a national identity.
One step was to establish four national languages -Mandarin, Malay,
Tamil, and English, the preferred medium for business and politics.
Singapore's main religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Hinduism
and Christianity. Buddhists represent about 54 percent of the population.
Islam, the national faith of Malaysia and Indonesia, also has a
significant presence, as do Hinduism and Christianity.
Without an official religion, the government's stated philosophy
is based on the social and moral codes of Confucianism.