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Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam at the Barathiar Barathidasan Vizha (Tamil Literary Forum) at the Grassroots Club, Yio Chu Kang

Posted in Speeches

President of the Tamil Language and Cultural Society Mr Harikrishnan, 

Mr Thirupugazh Mathivannan,

Ladies and gentlemen,


1     Thank you for inviting me to the Barathiar Bharathidsan Vizha

  • Great pleasure to be here for this celebration of Tamil language and culture

  • Good to take stock of the progress the Indian community has made over the years

The Indian Community in Singapore

2     Indian community is thriving and growing

  • Tamils are part of a vibrant Indian community in Singapore

  • Indians:

-       Accounted for 9.2 per cent of population in 2010; 7.9 per cent in 2000.
-       Numbers increased from 257,900 to 348,119 in the same period

  • Significant advances among Indians in education, income and social indicators

  • Take this opportunity to assess the Indian community’s progress in these areas

Educational Indicators

3     Indian students performing well in Singapore

  • Literacy rate of Indians increased (95.1 per cent in 2000 to 98.1 per cent  in 2010)

  • More Indians are getting university degrees. 

  • Percentage of Indians with university degrees higher than national average
-       In 2000, 16.5 per cent of Indians had degrees compared to national average of 11.7 per cent. In 2010, 35 per cent of Indians had degrees. National average 22.8 per cent.
-        Partly due to immigration of educated Indians from abroad

4     Overall, tremendous progress at all levels of education in the last 10 years:
Percentage of:
Indian Primary 1 students admitted to post-secondary education

Indian students who passed ‘O’ Level English

Indian students who passed ‘O’ Level Maths

Indian students with 5 ‘O’ Level passes

‘A’ Level Indian students who passed General Paper/Knowledge Inquiry


5           However, pass rates for Indians at PSLE, ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels still below national averages

Economic Indicators

6     Significant economic advancement of Indians in Singapore in last 10 years

-       Indian average monthly household income increased from $4,623 in 2000 to $7,664 in   2010, exceeding national average of $7,214

7     Indians moving up the value chain of jobs

-       Fewer Indians take up lower end jobs (eg: cleaners, labourers). Higher proportion moving into professional and managerial roles:
Percentage of Employed Indians Working As:
Senior officials, managers and professionals


8     Improvement in economic status seen in upgrading of homes:
Percentage of Indian Households Living In:
Condominiums or landed property

4 BR, 5 BR or Executive HDB flats

1 BR or 2 BR HDB flats

Social Indicators

9     Indian community experiencing same social trends affecting all ethnic groups in Singapore

-       Families are getting smaller as couples marry later and have fewer children (fertility rate 2.3 in 2005, 1.14 in 2010)

Assessment of Trends

10     Signficant progress made by Indian community in last few years

-       Now above national average in key indicators like household income and university education
-       Indians prominent in government, the legal profession and the private sector
-       Progress testament to the hardworking and dynamic nature of Indians in Singapore

11     However, still fall behind in areas like education. 

-       Need to do more to continue to improve our performance


12     Indians in Singapore are a linguistically diverse group, comprising Tamils, Malayalees, Sikhs, Punjabis and many others

13     Complexity of our fabric mirrors and augments the richness of Singaporean culture

  • Preservation of our culture and language important for identity of Indian community and Singaporean culture

  • While remaining distinct, continue interacting with other ethnic groups and participating in wider society

  • It is in these shared spaces where we celebrate our distinctness that the rich tapestry of Singaporean culture is weaved

14     Groups like Tamil Language and Cultural Society play integral role in nurturing culture

-        Congratulations to the winners of the creative writing competition

Last updated on 25 Nov 2012