Ethnicity and Fertility in Singapore 9789814376051

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Ethnicity and Fertility in Singapore

Table of contents :
List of Tables
List of Figures
I. Introduction
II. Research Methods
III. The Nature Of Ethnic Differences
IV. Ethnic Differences In Fertility
V. Explaining Ethnic Differences In Fertility
VI. Conclusions

Citation preview

I5EA5 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies was established as an autonomous organizatior. in May 1968. It is a regional research centre for scholars and other specialists concerned with modern Southeast Asia. The Institute's research interest is focused on the many-faceted problems of development and modernization, and political and social change in Southeast Asia. The Institute is governed by a twenty-two-member Board of Trustees on which are representatives from the National University of Singapore, appointees from the government, as well as representatives from a broad range of professional and civic organizations and groups. A ten-man Executive Committee oversees day-to-day operations; it is chaired by the Director, the Institute's chief academic and administrative officer. The responsibility for facts and opinions expressed in this publication rests exclusively with the authors and their interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the Institute or its supporters.



Eddie C. Y. Kuo and Chiew Seen-Kong

Research Notes and Discussions Paper No. 48 INSTITUTE OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES 1984

Pub I I shed by Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Hang Mul Keng Terrace Paslr Panjang Singapore 0511 All rights reserved. No part of this publicatio n may be reproduced , sto;·ed In a retrieval system, or transmitte d In any form or by any means, electronic , mechanica l, photocopyi ng, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ©

1984 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

ISSN 0129-8828 ISBN 9971-902-9 0-7







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The Setting


Theoretical Background


Ethnicity and Fertility Differentials in Singapore: Review of Literature


Outline of the Report




The Sampling Uesign


The Wuestionnaire


Interviewer Training and Fieldwork







Coding and Data Processing




Singapore Society


Ethnic Identity








Differences in Fertility


Differences in Fertility Preferences. Sex Preferences. and the Value of Children


Differences in Family Planning


Differences in Other Proximate Variables


Differences in Nuptiality


Chapter Summary




Multiple Classification Analysis


Analysis of Children Ever Born


Analysis of Recent Fertility


Findings on CEB and RF. and Theoretical Model One


Analysis of the Use of Effective Contraception


Findings of UEM Models and Theoretical Model Two







Ethnic Differentials in FertilityRelated Variables


Multiple Classification Analysis, Fertility, and Contraception










Page 1.1

Population of Singapore, by Ethnicity, 1871-1980



Population by Ethnic and Sub-Ethnic Community, Singapore 1980


Crude Birth Rates for the Three Main Ethnic Groups, 1886-1976


Population by Ethnicity in Selected Constituenc ies, Singapore, 1980


Population Uensity in Selected Constituenc ies, Singapore, 1957-1980


Per Cent Females Aged 15-44 by Ethnicity in Selected Constituenc ies, Singapore 1980


Sample Distributio n by Ethnicity in Selected Constituenc ies, Singapore


Achieved Samples by Gender, Ethnicity, and Community Type



Ethnic Identificati on by Ethnic Group (Per Cent)


3. 2

"Culture" by Ethnic Group



"Character istics" by Ethnic Group



Fertility and Fertility Preferences among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group (Means)



2.1 2.2 2.3




Page 4.2

4.3 4.4 4.5

4.6 4.7

4.8 4.9 4.10

Values Attached to Children among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group


Disvalues Attached to Children among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group


Birth Control among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group


Accessibility of Birth Control Methods among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group


Attitude Toward Birth Control among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group


Natural Fertility Factors among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group


Marriage and Marriage Attitudes among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group


Attitudes Toward Divorce and Remarriage among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group


Interaction with Spouse and Sex Role Attitudes among Respondents from Each Ethnic Group



Ethnic Differences in Proximate Variable:


Model 1:

ANOVA of Children Ever Born



Model 1:

Mean Number of Children Ever Born



Model 2:

ANOVA of Children Ever Born



Model 2:

Mean Number of Children Ever Born



Model 3:

ANOVA of Children Ever Horn



Model 3:

Mean Number of Children Ever Born



Model 4:

ANOVA of Children Ever Born



Model 4:

Mean Number of Children Ever Born



Model 5:

ANOVA of Children Ever Born



Model 5:

Mean Number of Children Ever Born


vi i



Page ANOVA of Children Ever Born


5.12 Model 6:

Mean Number of Children Ever Born


5.13 Model 7:

ANOVA of Children Ever Born


5.14 Model 7:

Mean Number of Children Ever Born



Model 6:

5.15 Models 1-7: ANOVA of Children Ever Born (Beta Coefficients Adjusted for Independents and Covariates)


5.16 Models 1-7: Mean Number of Children Ever Born by Ethnicity (Adjusted for Different Sets of Factors and Covariates)



Model 1:

ANOVA of Recent Fertility

5.1S Model 1: Mean Number of Children Born in Last Five Years 5.19 Model 2:

ANOVA of Recent Fertility

5.20 Model 2: Mean Number of Children Born in Last Five Years 5.21

Model 3:

ANOVA of Recent Fertility

5.22 Model 3: Mean Number of Children Born in Last Five Years 5.23 Model 4:

ANUVA of Recent Fertility

5,24 Model 4: Mean Number of Children Born in Last Five Years 5.25 Model 5:

ANOVA of Recent Fertility

5.26 Model 5: Mean Number of Children Born in Last Five Years 5.27

Model 6:

ANUVA of Recent Fertility

5.28 Model 6: Mean Number of Children Born in Last Five Years 5.29 Model 7:

ANOVA of Recent Fertility vi i i

130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 14U 141 142

Page 5.30 Model 7: Mean Number of Children Born in Last Five Years 5.31


Models 1-7: ANOVA of Recent Fertility (Beta Coefficients Adjusted for Independents and Covariates)


5.32 Models 1-7: Mean Number of Children Born in Last Five Years or Recent Fertility (Adjusted for Different Sets of Factors and Covariates)


5.33 Model 1: ANOVA of the Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods


5.34 Model 1: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used


5.35 Model 2: ANOVA of the Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods


5.36 Model 2: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used



Model 3: ANOVA of the Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods


5.38 Model 3: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used


5.39 Model 4: ANOVA of the Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods


5.40 Model 4: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used



Model 5: ANOVA of the Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods


5.42 Model 5: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used


5.43 Model 6: ANOVA of the Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods


5.44 Model 6: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used



Page 5.45

Model 7: ANOVA of the Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods



Model 7: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used



Model 8: ANOVA of the Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods



Model 8: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used



Models 1-8: ANOVA of Use of Effective Contraceptive Methods (Beta Coefficients Adjusted for Independents and Covariates)


Models 1-8: Mean Number of Effective Contraceptive Methods Used by Ethnicity (Adjusted for Different Sets of Factors and Covariates)





Page 1

A Schematic Framework for Studying Differentials in Fertility



A Schematic Framework for Studying Differentials in Use of Contraception



Structural Dissimilarity between the Chinese and Malay Labour Forces by Industry and Occupation, 1957 to 1980, Singapore


Selected Type A and Type B Constituencies


MAP 2.1



The present study is sponsored by the Internat ion a 1 Deve 1opment Research Cent re ( IDRC), Canada, under the auspices of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore. We are indeed indebted to both i nst it uti ons for their generous support to this project. We are also thankful to Miss Lana Khong Yiu Lan for her assistance throughout the fieldwork stage and to Mrs Tan Chee Kiow for the labourious task of computer data analysis. Misses Ph~a Siew Hoon and Tan Yee Yee carefully typed the complete manuscript. Their assistance is gratefully acknowledged. Eddie C.Y. Kuo, Ph.D. Chiew Seen-Kong, Ph.D. Singapore

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The Ethnicity and Fertility in Southeast Asia Project that commenced in 1980~_ was an outgrowth of an earlier project, Culture and Fertility in Southeast Asia, which was completed in 1979) Building upon the results of _the earlier study, which established that ethnicity was a significant factor underlying the fertility differentials among the various ethnic groups in Southeast Asia, the present. project aimed to explore in greater detail the extent to which ethnicity and ethnic factors like ethnic attitudes, ethnic identification and cultural practices influenced reproductive behaviour. Instead of utilizing secondary sources, the project relied on primary data collected through the survey technique. In all, twenty ethnic groups from the five ASEAN countries were surveyed in this study which spanned a total of three years. A study involving five different countries and so many ethnic groups of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds would invariably pose problems of comparability. To maximize comparability across countries, the study relied on the use of a common core questionnaire as well as a common analytical framework and data analysis procedures. While comparability was important, the incorporation of country-specific factors salient and relevant to the explanation of fertility behaviour was also encouraged. The final research design therefore attempted to be as comprehensive as possible in the exploration of the ethnic dimension in fertility differentials among the various ethnic groups studied. Three workshops were held during the period of the project to enable the researchers to come together to discuss and resolve problems related to the project. The first workshop was he 1d in May 1980. At this workshop the conceptual framework and the core questionnaire were finalized. In the second workshop held in June 1981, the methods of data analysis were decided. At the

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final workshop in September 1982, the country teams presented their preliminary findings. The final reports were completed by December 1983. A study of this scale obviously also involved many The researchers were all Southeast Asian social researchers. scientists drawn from various disciplines and backgrounds. Some were attached to universities of the region while others were from research institutes or government agencies. Dr Rodolfo A. Bulatao from the East-West Population Institute provided the initial intellectual impetus to the project by formulating the conceptual framework and research design for the study as well as the drafting of the preliminary questionnaire. In addition Dr Bulatao together with Dr Aline K. Wong from the National University of Singapore {NUS) and Dr Ng Shui Meng from ISEAS served as co-ordinators of the project. The country teams consisted of: Indonesia:


Dr Mely Tan (National Social Research, LEKNAS)



















Datin Dr No or Laily Abu Bakar Family Planning Board, NFPB)

(Malaysia National

Dr Tan Boon Ann {NFPB) Mr Tey Nai Peng {NFPB) Mr Hew Wai Sin (NFPB) Ms Aminah Abdul Rahman {NFPB) Ms Ramlah Haji Muda (NFPB) Philippines:

Ms Pilar Ramos Jimenez Counc i 1 , PSSC) Ms Cecilia Philippines)

(Philippine Social


Science of





Ms Lorna Mak i 1 ( PSSC) Singapore:

C.Y. Eddie Dr Singapore, NUS)


Dr Chiew Seen-Kong (NUS) xiv


Dr Suchart Prasithrathsint (National Development Administration, NIDA)


Institute of

Dr Suwanlee Piampiti (NIDA) Mr Thawatchai University)



Dr Laddawan Rodmanee (Mahidol University) Dr Luechai Chulasai (Chiangmai University) Ms Suranya Bunnag (Prince of Songkla University) Mr Amporn Chareonchai (Khan Kean University) Funding for the project was provided by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Rockefeller Foundation and the Human Reproduction Programme, Task Force on Psycho-social Research in Family Planning of the World Health Organization (WHO). The results of the monographs in this series:


Ethnicity Analysis











A Comparative

Ethnicity and Fertility in Indonesia Ethnicity and Fertility in Malaysia Ethnicity and Fertility in the Philippines Ethnicity and Fertility in Singapore Ethnicity and Fertility in Thailand ALINE WONG and NG SHUI MENG Project Co-ordinators and General Editors of the Series



There are at least two important reasons why a study on ethnicity and fertility should be of special relevance to Singapore. Firstly, Singapore society is ethnically diversified. The 1980 census reports that there are 76. 5 per cent Chi ne se, 14.6 per cent Malays, 6.4 per cent Indians, and 2.1 per cent "Others" in this island-state of 2.4 million population {Saw 1981, p. 16). Each of the three major ethnic groups in Singapore has its own relatively distinctive cultural traditions and complex linguistic and religious patterns. As such, the majority of the population have traditionally been strongly influenced by the customs and beliefs characteristic of their own ethnic cultures. To the extent that multiracialism remains one of the guiding ideological principles and is in fact a way of life in Singapore, a study of ethnic cultures and traditions can 1ead to a full er understanding of Singapore society. Secondly, Singapore has experienced a rapid process of fertility transition in the past few decades. Its national family planning programme is known to be among the most successful in the Third World. While it is generally recognized that there must be some causal connections between the declining fertility trend and the implementation of the national family planning programme and related social policies (Chang, Ong, and Chen 1980, p. 43}, it is also noted that different ethnic communities seem to have responded to the family planning programmes in different fashions and have demonstrated different patterns in fertility transition. It is, therefore, an important question to ask whether and to what extent the ethnic cul tura 1 traditions, customs and beliefs affect the fertility behaviour of population with various ethnic backgrounds. The present monograph reports the findings from a study on 1

the nature, causes, and implications of ethnic differentials in Based on a stratified, random sample of fertility in Singapore. 1,755 married persons, analysis has been made to provide a systematic and comparative description of the cultural and social A detailed groups. ethnic across structura 1 differences comparison of their fertility-related attitudes and behaviours is The contribution of different cultural and social also made. characteristics of each ethnic group to these structural multiple specifically, More assessed. is differentials classification analysis has been carried out to identify certain factors to account for fertility differentials between ethnic groups.

Theoretical Background That different ethnic groups show differentials in fertility rates is an em pi ri ea 1 fact well documented in Singapore, as in most other ethnically plural societies. However, researchers in the field are still looking for a coherent framework for an ethnic such of understanding and interpretation overall differentials. The majority of such attempts at explanation are, however, ad hoc and tend to be culturally or situationally This is perhaps specific, not allowing greater generalization. due to the fact that the concept ethnicity itself is rather elusive, often implying a combination of many interrelated cultural, social and psychological characteristics. Since the present study was initiated as a part of a comparative project on Ethnicity and Fertility in Southeast Asia a common theoret i ea 1 five ASEAN countries, i nvo 1vi ng all perspective was earlier accepted by all the participating Two research teams to assure comparability of the data. schematic frameworks have been adopted to account respectively for the two dependent variables under investigation, namely, These two models are ferti 1ity and the use of contraception. presented as Figure 1 and Figure 2. The framework distinguishes the proximate and the distal The proximate determinants of the two dependent variables. factors are those be 1i eved to have a "direct" effect on contraceptive use and fertility, while the distal factors are seen to affect the two dependent variables by modifying the proximate factors. In both Model One and Model Two, three groups of proximate The headings of these groups and the factors are identified. major factors included under each of them are presented as follows: 2

FIGURE I A Schematic Framework for Studying Differentials In Fertll lty

"Characteristics" Age/Sex EducatIon Income OccupatIon Female employment Urban residence Mad la exposure

Nuptlallty Age at marriage Number of marriages

Natural Fertility Factors Lactatlonal lnfecundablllty Sterll lty (perceived fecundity) Spontaneous abortion

Ethnic Identity Ethnic affll latlon Ethnic tertii lty approval Exposure to risk of conception (Contraception)

·~· Rellglos lty Gender preferences Status of women Remarriage of widows Menstrual taboos


Psychosocial Factors

Fert 11 lty preferences Values of children Couple decision processes Contraceptive accessibility Psychic costs of contraception

FIGURE 2 A Schematic Framework for Studying Differentia ls In Use of Contraceptio n

"Characteri stics" Age/Sex Education Income Dccupat Ion Female employment Urban residence Mad Ia exposure

Nuptlallty Age at marriage Number of marriages

Natural Fertll lty Factors Lactatlonal lnfecundabl llty Sterility (perceived Spontaneous abortion

Ethnic Identity Ethnic affiliation Ethn le tart lllty approval

·~· Rellg Ios lty Gender preferences Status of women Remarriage of widows Menstrual taboos

Psychosocia l Factors Fertility preferences Values of children Couple decision processes Contraceptiv e accessibili ty Psychic costs of contraceptio n


Nuptiality: marriages.









Natural fertility factors: lactational infecundability, sterility and (perceived fecundity), spontaneous abortion.


"Psychosocial" factors: fertility preferences, values of children, couple decision processes, contraceptive accessibility, and psychic costs of contraception.

In Model One, whi eh treats ferti1 ity as the dependent variable, a fourth proximate factor relating to the use of contraception is included, thus, 4(a) Exposure to the risk of effective contraception).





On the other hand, in Mode 1 Two where the use of concepti on is treated as the dependent variable, child mortality becomes the fourth proximate factor, thus, 4(b) Child mortality, which is believed to be influenced by the ethnic "characteristics" (as distal factors) discussed below. The distal factors, on the other hand, are classified into the following groups: 1.

"Characteristics": individual differences in sex, age, education, income, occupation, female employment, urban residence and media exposure. It is noted that ethnic groups are often unequa 1 on such characteristics, but in principle could become equal without losing their ethnic character.


"Culture": religiosity, gender preferences, status of women, remarriage of widows, menstrua 1 taboos, and similar beliefs, norms, and practices specific to an ethnic group.

As noted above, both groups of "characteristics" and "culture" variables, as distal factors, affect fertility only through their action on the pro xi mate determinants, and both are attached to a certain degree to one's ethnic identity. As a result, differentials in fertility and in the use of contraceptives caused indirectly by these two groups of factors may be considered ethnic differentials. In Model

One where

fertility 5




the dependent

vari ab 1e and the exposure to the risk of concepti on a proximate factor, a third distal factor is included in the analysis, thus: 3.

believed to influence is which Child mortality, fertility indirectly through its effect on the exposure to the risk of contraception.

Ethnicity and Fertility Differentials in Singapore: Review of Literature Singapore, as a multi-ethnic society, has evolved from a long history of migration from China, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia The term ethnic group, as since the early nineteenth century. used in the Singapore context, refers to groups or communities "be 1 ongi ng to the same stock or ethno 1ogi ea 1 origin and having common bonds of culture, customs and language" {Saw 1981, p. 15). In actua 1 practice, the i dent ifi cation of ethnic background is based on self -dec 1 a ration according to a 1 i st of pre-determined In Singapore, legally and to a great extent ethnic labels. socially, individuals are classified into three main ethnic groups, namely, Chinese, Mal ays, Indians, and a residual category In the case of a person of mixed parentage, the of "Others". ethnic group is customarily and according to the census rule taken to be that of the father. The label "Chinese" covers all persons of Chinese origin and is subdivided into specific dialect groups such as Hokkien, "Malay" on Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, Hainanese, and so forth. the other hand includes all persons of Malay or Indonesian origin and is subdivided into specific community groups such as Malays, "Indian" is used to Javanese, Boyanese, Bugis, and so forth. embrace all persons of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan origin, and is further subdivided into specific community groups such as Tamils, Malayalis, Punjabis, Gujeratis, and so The res i dua 1 category "Others" is used to cover all the forth. other ethnic groups including Europeans, Eurasians, Japanese, It should Arabs, Thais, Filipinos, and many other small groups. be noted that the recording of ethnic and sub-ethnic community identity is required by law in Singapore. With increasing number of intermarriages, especially between sub-ethnic groupings, the For an labelling of ethnic identity may be arbitrary for some. unknown proportion of the population, there may be a gap between the legal identity and the social and self ethnic identity of the individual. The distribution of the population by the four main ethnic groups since 1871 is presented in Table 1.1. The distribution of 6

various sub-ethnic communities of each ethnic group is given in Table 1.2. These parameters reflect the complexity of ethnic composition of the population in Singapore. According to Chang, Ong, and Chen (1980), fertility levels among the three main ethnic groups have always been different. Table 1.3 shows the contrast of the high level of Malay fertility with the initially low but rapidly rising level of Chinese fertility during the period 1886-1960. Saw (1970, p. 73) argues that the differences in fertility levels among the three ethnic groups are mainly due to the varying degrees of completeness in birth registration among them and the large variation in the sex composition of the three communities during the period. When the national family planning programme was first implemented in Singapore in 1965, the crude birth rate among the Mal ays was 39.7, the highest among the three. This is fo 11 owed by the Indian rate of 32.6 and the Chinese, 27 .3. The Chinese birth rate continued to drop to 21.1 in 1969, but the trend has since practically stopped. The Mal ay and Indian birth rates were relatively higher in the 1960s, but the decline of these rates has continued. Since 1973, the pattern of fertility levels of the three groups has been somewhat reversed. The Indian birth rate has become the lowest, the Malays the second, and the Chinese the highest. In analysing the fertility trends of the three ethnic communities si nee 1957, Chang ( 197 4) observes that a decline in marital fertility was the most important component in the fertility decline among the Chinese in the entire period from 1957 to 1970. For the Malays, on the other hand, marital fertility change alone would have led to an increase in the crude birth rate between 1957 and 1965, if it had not been counterbalanced by the effects of age-sex composition and nuptiality change. In the latter period 1965-70, marital fertility began to exert a negative effect on the birth rate among Malays, whereas the effect of age-sex composition became positive. For the Indians, the pattern was similar to that of the Malays, except that the effect of marital fertility was virtually nil in 1960-65. By 1976, higher-parity births among the Malays were reduced, but were st i 11 visibly more common than among the Chi ne se and the Indians. The fertility of Malay women who had three or more children constituted 27.1 per cent of total fertility, compared with 12.6 per cent among the Chi ne se and 14.8 per cent among the Indians. The Chinese, on the other hand, had a significantly higher fertility level among parity-two women. According to Chang (1978), a possible reason for higher Chinese fertility was the effect of Chinese tradition, in particular the fact that 7

TABLE 1,1 Population of Singapore, by Ethnicity, 1871-1980




Ch l ne se Malays Indians Others

54,572 26,148 11,501 4,890

121,908 35,992 16,035 10,619








164,041 36,080 17,823 10,611

222,655 46,952 27,990 14,388

317,491 58,520 32,456 17,445




Nu mb e r 1931





421,821 71 '177 51,019 23,436

730,133 115,735 68,978 25,978

1,090,596 197,059 129,510 28,764

1,579,866 311,379 145,169 38,093

1,856,237 351,508 154,632 51,568






P E R C E NT AG E Ch lnese Malays Indians Others Total

56.2 26.9 11.8 5.1

66.1 19.5 8.7 5,7

71.8 15,8 7,8 4,7

71.4 15.0 9,0 4.6

74.5 13.7 7.6 4.2

74.3 12,5 9,0 4,2

77,6 12.3 7,3 2.8

75,4 13,6 9,0 2.0

76,2 15,0 7,0 1.8

76.9 14.6 6.4 2.1












Censuses• definitions of Indians vary, affecting the residual category of others.


Adapted from Chlew 1983, p. 34.

TABLE 1.2 Population by Ethnic and Sub-Ethnic Community, Singapore 1980

Percentage Ethnic Group

Number Chinese Hokklen Teochlu Cantonese Halnanese Hakka (Khekl Other Ch lnese

1,856,237 799,202 409,269 305,956 137,438 131,975 72,397


Malays Malays Javanese Boyanese Other Malay

351,508 312,889 21,230 14,292 3,097


I nd fans Taml I Mal ayall Punjab I Gujerat I Other Indian

154,632 98,772 12,451 12,025 1,619 29,767


Others uropean uraslan Japanese Arab Others

51,568 23,169 10,172 7,590 2,491 8,164




43.1 22.0 16.5 7.4 7.1 3.9

89.0 6.0 4.1 0.9

63.9 8.1 7.8 1.0 19.2

44.9 19.7 14.7 4.8 15.8


Percentage , p, 37,


1976, the Chinese Year of the Dragon, was believed to be a propitious time for having children. While fertility declined for both Malays and Indians between 1975 and 1976, for the Chinese the rate rose slightly. People of different ethnic backgrounds are found to be different not only in fertility behaviour as reflected in the trends of crude birth rates, but in other fertility-related measures as well. In a secondary analysis of the 1973 ESCAP study (Chen 1974), Chen (1979} found that ethnicity as an independent variable is associated with four fertility indicators, namely, number of children ever born, current contraceptive use, desired family size, and wife's age at first marriage. In this study of 2,468 individuals, Chen found that the Malays had the largest number of children ever born and the largest desired family size, followed by the Chinese and the Indians. The Chi ne se had the highest percentage of contraceptive acceptors followed by the Malays and the Indians. Among the three groups, the Indian women married at the youngest age at first marriage, and the Chinese the oldest. Applying multiple classification analysis, Chen (1979} also found that, among the four independent variables (ethnicity, wife's education, husband's education and household income}, ethnicity is the most important predictor for two dependent variables, namely, current contraceptive use and wife's age at first marriage. When adjusted for the effects of other independent variables, ethnicity becomes the most powerful predictor for all the four dependent variables, that is, the above two p1 us the number of chi 1dren ever born and the desired family size. Chen (1979} concludes by saying that the differences in fertility among the three ethnic groups are not due to their social and economic differences but to other factors. Just what these factors are remains the task of the present study. Different ethnic groups, as indicated above, have shown differentials in their attitudes to and practices of contraception. This has been verified in several surveys using national samples. The findings from the 1977 survey of a national sample of 2,467 married women aged 15-44 by the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board (SFPPB, 1977) are presented below. Among the three major ethnic groups, the Ma 1ays are found to be most receptive to contraceptives, fo 11 owed by Chi ne se and then Indians (SFPPB 1977, p. 48). The contraceptive methods used also vary among the three ethnic. qroups. The pill is particularly


favoured by the Malays. Among the Chinese, the condom is most popular. For the lndi ans, the condom again appears to more widely accepted. On the other hand, the rhythm method relatively more popular with the Indians than with the other ethnic groups (p. 49).

the be is two

As far as the attitude towards induced abortion is concerned, the Malays are found to be most strongly against induced abortion. The Chinese have the highest proportion giving straight forward approval (SFPPB 1977, p. 57). On the other hand, of those respondents who have heard of female sterilization, more than 78 per cent of them approve of sterilization to limit fertility. The proportion giving approval is relatively higher for the Indians and the Chinese than for the Malays. A notably higher proportion of the Malays are against sterilization. Of the three ethnic groups, the Chi ne se are the most willing to have sterilization and the Malays the least willing (SFPPB 1977, p. 51). In a recent Va 1 ue of Children study ( Chen, Kuo, and Chung 1982) covering a national sample of 1,468 married females and their husbands, people from different ethnic groups are found to show substantia 1 differences in the perceived va 1 ues and costs of children. While all ethnic groups emphasize the element of happiness and companionship as a major advantage of having children, there are substantial differences in the degree of emphasis placed on the economic benefits of children and the importance of maintaining kin groups and family name. The Chinese are expectedly found to put more emphasis on the advantage to the kin group and family name. As for the Malays, children are seen to bring a sense of security and economic benefits to the parents. For the Indian males, parenthood is seen to camp l ement persona 1 i ty development of parents ( Chen, Kuo and Chung 1982, pp. 19-20). As far as the perceived disadvantages of having children is concerned, while all ethnic groups seem to agree that emotional strain is a major burden of having children, Chinese more than the other two groups put more emphasis on the burden of financial costs as a disadvantage. The Chinese females are also found to mention more frequently the restrictions on alternative activities imposed by children than others in the sample. In a genera 1 way, the Chi ne se tend to perceive much greater amount of worry and emotional strain caused by children than respondents from the other ethnic groups. This is followed by the Malays and then the Indians (Chen, Kuo, and Chung 1982, pp. 22, 24). Similarly, the Chinese tend to perceive more interference imposed by children than the other two ethnic groups; Chinese parents are more likely to mention that children will interfere with the career development of the parents (pp. 24-25). 12

The VOC study also reveals that respondents of various ethnic backgrounds and different gender give different reasons Among the Chinese, the most important for wanting a child. reason given by both male and female respondents is to seek old age assistance provided by the child. Among the Malays, to bring husband and wife c 1os er together is seen by most of the fema 1e respondents as a major reason for wanting a child. For the Ma 1 ay males, it is the old age assistance, as in the case of Chinese. Among the Indians, female respondents most often mention that the child is wanted so that there wi 11 be someone to 1 ove and care for; for the male respondents , most of them mention as a major reason that the child can bring husband and wife closer together (Chen, Kuo, and Chung 1982, p. 27).

Outline of the Report by a chapter on followed is chapter introductor y This methodology . A brief discussion on the research setting and the The details of the sampling survey areas will be presented. the summarizes Two Chapter discussed. be will design constructio n of the questionnai re and the procedures of training and supervision of interviewer s in carrying out the fieldwork. Chapter Three deals with the nature of ethnic differences . Comparisons will be made between the three major ethnic groups in Singapore in terms of their demographic and socio-econo mic characteri sties. Data will be drawn from both the current survey findings and those available from official statistics. Ethnic differences in fertility will be the focus of Chapter Comparisons between the ethnic communities should reveal Four. interesting contrasts in fert i 1 ity and fertility-re 1 ated factors such as fertility preferences , sex preferences , values and costs of children, family planning attitudes and practices, and nuptiality factors. multiple on based findings the Five, Chapter In be presented to identify the classificat ion analysis will explanatory factors of ethnic differences in fertility and the Two indicators are used to measure use of contracepti on. fertility, namely, children ever born and recent fertility (number of births in the past five years). As a result, the MCA analysis includes the following three dependent variables: children ever born, recent fertility, and use of effective contracepti ve methods. The report will

cone 1 ude with the fi na 1 chapter whi eh wi 11


not only give a summary of the major findings of the present study but will discuss both the theoret i ea 1 and pract i ea 1 po 1 icy implications of such research findings.



The Saapling Design This study is focused on currently living with their husbands. Since variable of investigation, three needed to cover the three major Malays, and Indians in Singapore.

married women aged 15-44 years ethnicity is a key independent sub-samples of equal size are ethnic communities of Chinese,

Closely enmeshed with the concept of ethnicity is the ethnic It is distribution of the geographical area one lives in. postulated that members of a certain ethnic group who 1 i ve in an area where the proportion of their ethnic population is greater than the national average have different ethnic experiences (either inter-ethnic or intra-ethnic) from those in an area with (The ethnic distribution similar to the national average.1 1 atter type of areas is henceforth referred to as "Type A Community", and the former type as the "Type B Community".) Thus, ethnic membership and community type constitute the two major elements in the consideration of the sampling design. each



view of the above considerations, consist should sub-sample ethnic

it was decided that of kinds of two

The decision to compare two types of community was made partly due to the fact that the present Singapore study was Since all other part of an ASEAN comparative project. participating countries will compare their rural and urban population and since there is no meaningful rural community in Singapore at all, it was felt appropriate to draw sample ethnic to according communities of types two from distribution as described in the text. The design makes the Singapore sample more "comparab 1e" with samp 1 es from other countries. 15

respondents, those from the Type A Community and those from the It was a1so fe 1t that for respondents from Type B Community. each type of community, it may be important to cover both those from a densely populated area and those from a relatively less densely populated area. The first task of the research team was therefore to select, from the 75 electoral constituencies in ethnic representative with constituencies two Singapore, distribution (Type A Community) and six constituencies with non-representa tive ethnic distribution (Type B Community), two for each ethnic sub-sample.

Selection of Constituencies At the time of preparation for the field work, the only available data on ethnic distribution by constituency was the 1970 After a careful analysis of statistics on population census. demographic data from all constituencie s, and distribution ethnic Buk it Merah and Te 1ok Bl angah were se 1ected as Type A communities because their ethnic distributions closely matched the ethnic distribution of Singapore in 1970. Moreover, Bukit Merah had a high density of 183 persons per acre while Telok Blangah had a low density of only 17. Mountbatten and Thomson were selected as The population Type B areas of Chinese over-represen tation. density of Mountbatten was 94 while that of Thomson was 18. Geyl ang Serai and Pas i r Panj ang were se 1ected as Type B communities over-represent ing Malays. Their population densities were 79 and 9 respectively. Anson and Sembawang were selected as Type B areas of Indian over-represen tation. Their densities were 85 and 8 respectively. However, between 1970 and 1980 the population shifted about Some Densities also changed. from one area to another. constituencies have become more dense while others less dense or The population shifts affect the ethnic remained unchanged. However, the distribution within constituencies somewhat. selected constituencies more or less maintain their ethnic According to the 1980 census of composition (see Table 2.1). population, the two selected Type A constituencies are fairly population in their ethnic representative of the general composition with regard to the three major ethnic groups under investigation. Buk it Merah comprises 76. 1 per cent Chi ne se, 16. 5 per cent Ma 1ays and 7. 2 per cent Indians. As mentioned above the general population consists of 76.9 per cent Chinese, 14.6 per Telok Blangah shows a cent Malays and 6.4 per cent Indians. slight over-represen tation of Indians (10.1 per cent) with 73.5 per cent Chinese and 15.5 per cent Malays. 16

TABLE 2.1 Populetlon by Ethnicity In Selected Constituencies, Slngepore, 1980



S lngepore








% 14.6









2,536 4,424

7.2 10.1



0.2 0.9

389 1,140

1.6 4.0

39 691

0.2 2.5

1,288 3,275

7.3 8.5

195 3,179

1.1 8.3

4,788 9,465

22.9 24.3

298 458

1.4 1.8

Representative Constituencies