Rare Riot Reflects Challenging Demographic Trend


BMI View: The exceedingly rare riot that took place in Singapore's Little India district on December 8 th was the city-state's second relatively major social incident involving foreign workers dating back to November 2012's illegal bus driver strike. While we do not believe that these incidents reflect a material deterioration in Singapore's extremely strong business environment, we note that societal stresses related to the substantial economic and social separation between relatively low-wage, transitory foreign workers and the rest of the population will continue to be a concern in the country over the coming years.

Singapore suffered its first relatively large-scale riot in over 40 years on December 8 th, as approximately 400 people (largely hailing from South Asia) created a violent scene in the city-state's Little India district. The riot reportedly broke out after a private bus operating in the area struck and killed an Indian national some time after 9pm, and the government was quick to issue sharp criticisms towards those involved following the cessation of hostilities nearly three hours later. Although still inconclusive, damage reports indicate that at least five police vehicles, one ambulance, and a number of private vehicles were vandalised in the chaos, while as many as 18 people suffered injuries.

The incident was an extremely rare event for Singapore, which is by far the most socially and politically stable country in Southeast Asia and is known for its strict laws and wide-ranging policies meant to discourage social unrest. Nevertheless, it was the second relatively major social incident for the country dating back to November 2012, when 171 bus drivers hailing from mainland China organised a coordinated work stoppage, later deemed to be an illegal strike by the government.

Foreign Worker Inflows Altering Population Landscape
Singapore - Population By Type, % chg y-o-y

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This article is tagged to:
Sector: Country Risk
Geography: Singapore