Singapore has a population of almost 6 million people with a $297.9 billion GDP which is growing at the average rate of 3.9 percent every year. Singapore is one of the richest Asian countries per capita. In 2012, Singapore city was ranked as the sixth most expensive city to live in the world—after cities including Tokyo, Sydney and Oslo. Despite these statistics, one-tenth of Singapore’s population is currently living in poverty.
Today, the income inequalities have become more noticeable than ever. Unlike large countries such as China or India where there is a distinct difference between urban towns and rural villages, Singapore is a small island where both the wealthy and poor live in proximity to each other.
Out of 136 countries considered, Singapore currently ranks the 26th most income disparate. This makes them the second most income unequal country in Asia. According to the Singapore government, over 105,000 families live in poverty. This translates to about one in 10 family homes, or 378,000 people.
While Singapore has the highest concentration of millionaires in the world and has an average per capita income of over $52,000, there are 105,000 families left with $5 to spend per day and 114,000 individual residents making less than $805 per month.
Furthermore, the purchasing power of the poor has significantly dropped. It has been determined that the top 10 percent wager-earning households earn as much as 25 times more than the bottom 10 percent. While the top earners saw their real wages increase, those on the bottom saw their real wages decrease. It is further distressing to realize that the price of goods and services rose by 13.1 percent since 2012.
Singapore had never had an official poverty line to measure the rates of poverty in their country. However, the Singaporean Parliament chose to establish a rough definition after neighboring Hong Kong created guidelines to better identify and take strides towards relieving the financial stress those particular citizens.
Currently, while Singapore has no acceptable measure of poverty, they consider any four person household that makes less than $1,250 per month as somewhat struggling. The $1,250 figure is considered the average a four person household would typically spend on food, clothing and shelter per month.
Much of the country’s poverty is created by the influx of foreign workers taking blue collar jobs that were once held by native Singaporeans. Foreign workers unfortunately mean cheaper labor. There is always a cost to globalization, and this time it has affected Singaporeans in their own home.
Despite the large, wealthy buildings in Singapore, many are often struggling to find affordable housing. Those that cannot make it live in tiny government-owned apartments that are barely bigger than 13 square feet. In those cases, rent is paid to the government according to how much they can afford to pay, children from impoverished backgrounds attend school on fees subsidized by the government and food is provided not by the wages earned but by charitable donations.
While Singapore does not have abject poverty like one would find in various parts of Africa, being unable to afford living in your country is an issue that any government should address and find solutions.
– Christina Cho