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20% of Singapore residents have no religion, an increase from the last population census

20% of Singapore residents have no religion, an increase from the last population census

People wearing face masks cross a road amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore on May 14, 2021. (File photo: Reuters/Caroline Chia)

SINGAPORE: Twenty per cent of Singapore residents had no religious affiliation in 2020, a slight increase from the 17 per cent a decade before, according to the census of population released by the Department of Statistics (DOS) on Wednesday (Jun 16).

The findings were for Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 15 and above.

Among those who identified with a certain religion, Buddhists form the largest group of 31.1 per cent, followed by Christians at 18.9 per cent and Muslims at 15.6 per cent in 2020. Residents who identified themselves as Taoists stood at 8.8 per cent in 2020, while Hindus make up 5 per cent.

Compared to a decade ago, there were more Christians and Muslims in 2020, but a lower proportion of Taoists and Buddhists. The proportion of Hindus, as well as those who practice other religions, remained largely the same.

In 2020, one in five residents said they had no religion - an increase from a decade before. (Graphic: Rafa Estrada)

The census of population, conducted once every 10 years, is the largest national survey undertaken in Singapore to collect statistics such as demographic, social and economic data. A total of 150,000 households were surveyed last year.

READ: Slowest population growth in Singapore since independence: Census 2020

Overall, Singapore continued to be religiously diverse, said the DOS.

ONE IN FOUR CHINESE HAD NO RELIGION

Breaking down the data by ethnic group, the census noted: “The Chinese had a significantly larger proportion with no religious affiliation in 2020 than the Malays and Indians.”

It said that about 26 per cent of Chinese residents had no religion in 2020, compared to just 0.4 per cent of Malay residents and 2.2 per cent of Indian residents.

Among Chinese residents, the group without any religion also grew the most over the decade. It stood at 21.8 per cent in 2010.

Despite this, Buddhists remained the largest religious group among the Chinese, constituting 40.4 per cent – slightly lower than 43 per cent in 2010.

The proportion of Taoists also fell to 11.6 per cent last year, down from 14.4 per cent in 2010.

WATCH: Faith Over Fear: Religion In A Time Of COVID-19

RELIGION AMONG MALAYS AND INDIANS

The survey found that in 2020, 98.8 per cent of Malay residents were Muslims – relatively unchanged from the 98.7 per cent a decade before.

Those with no religion made up 0.4 per cent in 2020, only marginally higher than the 0.2 per cent in 2010.

Among the Indian ethnic group, Hinduism remained the most common religion, accounting for 57.3 per cent of responses in 2020 – slightly less than the 58.9 per cent it recorded in 2010.

It was followed by Islam at 23.4 per cent, which gained some ground compared to the 21.7 per cent recorded in 2010.

In the same period, the proportion of Christians shrank slightly from 12.8 per cent to 12.6 per cent. Those who identify with other religions, such as Sikhism also fell from 5.4 per cent to 4.6 per cent.

READ: English gaining ground as the language most used at home: Census 2020

RELIGION AND AGE GROUPS

Younger residents were more likely to have no religious affiliation compared to older residents, according to the census.

For instance, in 2020, about 24 per cent of residents aged 15 to 24 said they had no religious affiliation, higher than the figure of 15 per cent for residents aged 55 and above.

But overall, the proportion of those with no religion rose across all age groups.

As for religions within age groups, it was found that a larger proportion of older residents were Buddhists or Taoists, compared to younger residents.

In contrast, a larger proportion of younger residents reported themselves as Muslims, compared to older residents.

“The proportion of Christians was relatively similar across all age groups,” the report stated.

RELIGION AND EDUCATION LEVELS

The proportion of those with no religion rose across most types of educational qualifications over the decade.

The biggest increase – 3.6 percentage points– was seen among those with university qualifications.

The only category that saw a smaller proportion of people without any religious affiliation was those with post-secondary qualifications - the figure shrank from 16.5 per cent in 2010 to 16 per cent in 2020.

More information from the census will be released on Friday.

Source: CNA/cl

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