Our Heritage



Every day, we go to work hoping to help the Singapore worker and his family. Our purpose is to fulfil a genuine social need that is yet unmet, or underserved. It was true when the first NTUC social enterprise, NTUC Income, was set up in 1970, and it’s just as true today.

The idea of co-operatives (social enterprises) was first conceived at the Modernisation Seminar in 1969. Then, Singapore was a third-world nation with a population comprising mostly blue-collar and low income workers. Jobs, housing, food and daily essentials, inflation and social security were major concerns.

At the Seminar, Dr Goh Keng Swee (then Finance Minister) urged NTUC to set up social enterprises in areas such as life insurance and essential consumer goods to meet the needs of the working population. This set the stage for the setting up of NTUC social enterprises.

Starting with NTUC Income, and NTUC Welcome (now FairPrice) in 1973, and all the NTUC social enterprises that followed were set up to meet the needs of the time.


NTUC Social Enterprises


NTUC incorporated its first co-operative, NTUC Income, with a social mission to make insurance affordable and accessible to the low-wage workers of Singapore, who were otherwise neglected by the commercial insurers. Today, Income promotes best practices for the insurance industry through its honest insurance philosophy which includes fair claims settlement and plain English contracts. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore


NTUC Denticare was set up to provide affordable dental care to workers during a time when dental treatment was expensive and beyond the reach of most workers. From one chair when it started, NTUC Denticare, which is known today as Unity Denticare, has grown to 20 clinics with more than 40 dental chairs island-wide.


NTUC FairPrice was set up in 1973 to stabilise the price of rice and other essential goods during the time of global oil crisis. It has grown to be Singapore’s largest retailer, helping moderate the cost of living in Singapore through the retail and trading activities with a network of more than 280 stores. Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore


To encourage more working mothers to remain in the workforce, NTUC took over the management of 10 crèches from the Ministry of Social Affairs in 1977. NTUC First Campus’ childcare centres today include My First Skool, The Little Skool-House International and The Caterpillar’s Cove, serving over 10,000 families across 111 centres. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore


NTUC Healthcare was set up to help stabilise rising costs of medical products and services through a chain of retail pharmacies. By 2014, NTUC Unity Healthcare had become the largest healthcare co-operative in Singapore, operating some 60 NTUC Unity pharmacies and 20 NTUC Unity Denticare clinics. Ong Teng Cheong Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore


To combat profiteering following the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax in 1994, NTUC Foodfare Co-operative Limited was set up in 1995 to moderate the prices of cooked food. NTUC Foodfare today manages a portfolio of over 60 retail outlets and serves more than 150,000 meals at foodcourts, coffee shops and cafes under its key retail brands, Foodfare, Wang Café, and Rice Garden community stalls. In the same year, NTUC Choice Homes Co-operative Limited was also set up to help Singaporeans fulfil their aspirations to upgrade from public housing to private residential property at fair prices.


NTUC Eldercare was set up to support middle income families to care for their elderly loved ones through quality and affordable eldercare services. It was also an effort to encourage more women to enter the workforce by providing options to care for their elderly loved ones within the community.


NTUC Link Private Limited was incorporated to bring greater value and savings to members through their loyalty and rewards scheme, The Plus! Programme. With household penetration of close to 90%, the Plus! Programme currently has over 1,100 participating merchant outlets both at retail stores and online.


NTUC LearningHub was set up with the mission to enhance the lifelong employability of Singapore’s workforce by providing quality and affordable learning to both rank and file workers and PMEs (Professionals, Managers and Executives). They have trained 1.9 million people in the workforce to-date.


Mercatus Co-operative Limited was established in 2011 to invest in retail malls located in residential heartlands, to offer products and services by the NTUC social enterprises to the community. It owns 100% of AMK Hub and 50% of NEX Serangoon.


NTUC Enterprise, set up in July 2012, is the holding co-operative of the existing group of NTUC Social Enterprises (SEs) including NTUC Fairprice, NTUC First Campus, NTUC Food Fare, NTUC Health, NTUC Income, NTUC LearningHub and NTUC Link. It effectively unifies the NTUC social enterprises to give greater coherence, scale and impact in order to meet the needs of Singaporeans for affordable and quality products and services.


NTUC Health Co-operative Limited was also formed on 1 July 2014 to bring together the expertise and experience of NTUC Eldercare and NTUC Unity Healthcare, and provide a comprehensive and integrated suite of services to meet the growing needs of families and their dependents.