It’s a man’s world

When Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819, there were about 150 people living here. As the ‘‘great commercial emporium’ that he set out to build in Singapore began to take shape, hundreds and then thousands of labourers and traders flocked to Singapore from neighbouring areas, and from China and India. By 1824, the population had grown to some 11,000. By the first proper Census in 1871, there were nearly 100,000 people in Singapore. Most, however, were men.

The Chinese and Indian men who came to Singapore in the 19th century and early 20th century looking for work could not afford to bring their wives and families with them. So early Singapore was mainly a man’s world. In 1860, there was just 1 woman for every 6 men. The imbalance was greatest in the Chinese community, with 1 woman for every 14 men. In the late 1920s, quotas were set for male Chinese immigrants and the sex ratio began to improve.