Jun 18, 2013

    Click for answers to population queries

    BEING able to identify where four-room flats are in a town on an online map sounds like a useful tool for home buyers.

    But what about finding out which towns have more residents who earn $8,000 or more a month, or which towns have more singles than others?

    These are some of the capabilities of a government online service launched yesterday that allows the public to cross-reference publicly-available demographic data with a map.

    But there are concerns about privacy, as well as jitters that this might lead to social enclaves forming, such as the rich seeking to move into towns where other rich people live.

    The service, free for members of the public and businesses, is called PopulationQuery and available on the Singapore Land Authority's OneMap online map (

    PopulationQuery was jointly developed by the Department of Statistics and the Singapore Land Authority.

    It allows users to cross-reference 22 demographic datasets - including marital status, occupation, income from work, type of dwelling - with a map of Singapore divided according to planning areas.

    So, you could get a sense of how many professionals there are in Ang Mo Kio, compared to Tampines.

    Currently, only data for 2000, 2010, 2011 and last year is available but more is expected to be added later. Some years, such as 2011 and last year, have only limited sets of demographic data.

    On privacy concerns with the service, Mr Baey Yam Keng, the deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications and Information, said there was "no issue" because the data is "presented at an aggregate level and not at an individual level".

    He was also not worried about an increased level of segregation due to people using the service to pick out certain areas to live in based on factors such as income and occupation.

    "Singapore is small but it still has scope for neighbourhoods to have different kinds of people," said the Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC.

    In fact, he said the service would greatly help businesses in independently conducting their own market research.

    Assistant private banker Chew Jia Ling, 25, did not think there was a concern with social enclaves forming.

    She explained that even without the service, Singaporeans already know which parts of the country have a higher number of wealthy people than others "because we have a small population".

    Ms Chew also had no privacy concerns with the service, noting that the demographic data the service uses is already available on the Internet except that, now, someone is consolidating it.

    Announcing PopulationQuery yesterday at the eGov Global Exchange, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that the service "will be very useful for citizens, businesses and academics".

    "For example, if you're thinking of buying a property, you may be interested in the demographics of the area, and at the same time you can see the schools, restaurants (and) even property prices in the area," he said.

    Next month, a Labour Market Statistical Information website will be launched that allows employees and employers to check their wages against industry benchmarks, as well as the salaries in other industries.