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EAST G3: Migration

An inquiry into human migration, the push and pull factors that influence the decision to migrate and the impact on individuals, families and communities

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Singapore Today

Singapore's Immigrant History

Written by Secondary 2 students from Westwood Secondary School. Members: Yaohui, Jasmine, Brenda, Junhao, Choiying

Immigrants are people who come from other countries. They consisted of women and men. But most of them were men. They consisted of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European. 

They came from :

Portugal and Holland
India and Ceylon

Melaka and Penang
Malay Archipelago

Immigrants came to Singapore to work hoping to make enough money to send it back to their hometown so that their families would not starve. They hoped to eventually return home after earning enough. Instead, some immigrants chose to live in Singapore permanently. They either brought their wives or children to Singapore or married local women or men who were mostly Malays or Chinese born in Penang and Melaka.

The Push Factors that lead the immigrants to come to Singapore 

  • Unfavourable conditions in their homeland
  • Unemployment
  • War
  • High Crime Rate
  • Poor Living Conditions
  • Discrimination


The Pull Factors that attracted the immigrants to Singapore

  • New enviroment
  • Employment
  • Peace
  • Low Crime Rate
  • Good Healthcare
  • Better Living Conditions

The immigrants were settled in different areas, according to their race, at the mouth of the Singapore River.

In 1822, Lieutenant Philip Jackson was appointed by Raffles as the Assistant Engineer to plan as to improve the haphazard way in which buildings were in built in the settlement and to prevent conflicts among different groups and fire.

Raffles planned to segregate the races.  Each race had a specific residential area  to minimise contacts and conflicts. 

A Kapitan, chief of a designated area, was appointed to be in-charge of the internal affairs of each community.


The Chinese

Chinese barbers cut hair and provided ear-picking services

Chinese provision shops supplied daily necessities of the immigrants

Chinese street hawkers sold food that gave the Chinese a taste of their homeland food

Chinese rickshaw pullers provided transportation for people around and outside of town areas.

The coolies who worked at the docks and construction were unskilled. They carried cargo at docks and wood for construction purposes.

The Indians, were in-charge of the areas of banking and transportation, they held the monopoly of transportation in Singapore until the 1860s.

The Malays, they were mostly engaged in providing basic necessities like firewood and foodstuffs. They had jobs like gardeners, huntsmen and shipbuilders. They made ships and boats for the Malay traders to ferry their goods to neighbouring islands.

Many immigrants worked very hard and some succeeded in fulfilling their dreams. However, those who did not succeed lived in poverty and hardship till death.