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facts about poverty in Singapore
Many facts about poverty in Singapore are not widely known. Singapore is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but that doesn’t mean it is free from poverty. Media representations of Singapore often show prosperous aspects of the country while neglecting to cover issues of poverty. Singapore also does not have a poverty line, so it is difficult to measure how many households are officially in poverty.

Top 10 facts about poverty in Singapore:

  1. Singapore has one of the largest income gaps in the world. Wealth is disproportionately spread among wealthy foreigners while native Singaporeans live in poverty and often have lower-paying jobs
  2. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of families receiving financial assistance in Singapore jumped 43.45 percent. This is the highest poverty rate ever reported in the country. 
  3. Singapore does not have a national minimum wage. This means that there is no standard for the lowest an employer has to pay an employee, leaving many laborers without enough money to reach an acceptable standard of living. However, Singapore does have laws regulating minimum monthly income for security guards and cleaning employees. 
  4. In 2012, Singapore was the 6th most expensive city to live in. This, coupled with wealth inequalities, lack of minimum wage laws and other factors, contributes to the continuation of the poverty cycle in the city. 
  5. Singapore has progressive taxation, so anyone with an income of less than $20,000 is exempt from taxation. However, the cost of living in Singapore also needs to be considered when looking at this minimum income. 
  6. Poverty in Singapore disproportionately affects the elderly. While Singapore as a whole has increased 43.45 percent in the number of families relying on government assistance between 2012 and 2015, residents over the age of 60 saw a 74.32 percent increase in poverty. 
  7. Another of the facts about poverty in Singapore regarding age is 5 percent of young Singaporeans under 30 are unemployed. Many others cannot find jobs with sufficient wages because of the lack of minimum wage laws in the country.
  8. Many young Singaporeans rely on financial aid from the government. According to the Singapore Ministry of Social and Financial Development, in 2015, 5,644 households with applications younger than 35 years old received short or medium term financial aid.
  9. According to Singaporeans Against Poverty, the price of goods and services in Singapore increased 13.1 percent over the last three years. 
  10. The government, as well as other independent organizations, have plans to implement a variety of policies that will make finding housing, getting an education and paying taxes more bearable for poor Singaporeans.

These are the top 10 facts about poverty in Singapore. Poverty is a prevalent issue in the country and it has many contributing factors that need to be addressed individually. The government of Singapore can do more to reduce income inequality and ensure all Singaporeans are able to afford a proper standard of living.

– Liyanga de Silva

Photo: Flickr


Singapore is seldom thought of as a poor country since the nation ranks fourth in the richest countries in the world; however, the reality is that many Singaporeans live in poverty. For far too many people, poverty in Singapore is a fact of life.

The Top 10 Poverty in Singapore Facts:

1. Singaporeans have to live on $5 a day

Four-hundred thousand Singaporeans live on $5 a day. Singaporeans Against Poverty, the campaign whose concern is “for those in Singapore caught in the cycle of poverty despite our economic success,” began the $5 challenge, where people can pledge money and try to live on a $5 per day budget.

2. Some Singaporeans have no income

A survey from the Housing Development Board showed that one-third of Singaporeans living in one or two room flats have no source of income. Additionally, an Ipsos APAC and Toluna study found that 62 percent of Singaporeans state that their dissatisfaction is a result of their personal financial situation.

3. There is no official poverty line in Singapore

According to Worldbank, there are several reasons to measure poverty: “to keep the poor on the agenda; if poverty were not measured, it would be easy to forget the poor.” Additionally, poverty lines “target interventions that aim to reduce or alleviate poverty,” and finally, measurements help to evaluate projects, policies and institutions that aim to help the poor.

In a Straits Times article, it was stated that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong doesn’t believe establishing poverty lines will be helpful as there are great disparities between poor groups in Singapore; each group requires “different sort and scale of help… This cannot be accomplished by a rigid poverty line, he said, which might be polarising and leave some outside the definition of poor.”

4. Singapore’s wealth gap is one of the widest

As noted in the CIA World Factbook, Singapore was ranked 36th out of 150 countries for income inequality in 2016 based on the Gini coefficient, a ratio of highest to lowest incomes. This means that the high-income households are extremely wealthy, while the low-income households are extremely poor. In fact, a Credit Suisse report showed that more than a quarter of the country’s wealth is held by the top 1 percent of the population.

5. The Gini coefficient has begun to decrease

According to the Singapore Management University (SMU) handbook, the government has begun to acknowledge the wealth disparity. Although Singapore is still ranked high for income inequality, the Gini coefficient has decreased in the past two years.

6. Wages fall for low-income households

In the SMU handbook, it was stated that the bottom 20 percent of workers saw a decrease in wages between 1998 and 2010.

7. Singapore is the most expensive city to live in

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore was the most expensive city to live in in 2017 for the 4th year running. This makes it increasingly difficult for the impoverished population to afford basic necessities.

8. Increase in cost of goods and services

Likewise, the past three years saw a 13.1 percent increase in goods and services, according to Singaporeans Against Poverty.

9. More Singaporeans are being covered under ComCare

ComCare was established by the Singaporean government in 2005 to provide assistance to needy families who are either unable to work or are currently searching for employment.

As reported in the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the number of Singaporeans being covered under ComCare grew from 13,479 in 2012 to 18,996 in 2015, but the government claims this is not due to higher poverty levels; rather, it says it’s due to changes to the program.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development has extended coverage so that more families can apply for ComCare.

10. Singaporean government is taking steps towards alleviating poverty

As noted in The Observer, the government has put plans into place to fight poverty. Of these are plans are the goals to reduce the cost of education, to exempt lower-income families from paying taxes and to contribute cash payments to those in need.

These top 10 poverty in Singapore facts demonstrate the acute issues for low-income houses. However, the Singaporean government is making considerable strides to help its people, enough so that these top 10 poverty in Singapore facts may eventually become irrelevant.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

poverty in singapore
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.

Poverty in Singapore Today

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

Sources: BBC, Singaporeans Against Poverty, Al Jazeera, World Bank
Photo: SMU

singapore_poor
Singapore, a city-state located in Southeast Asia, has skyrocketed economically and is home to the world’s largest percentage of millionaires – with one of every six households having at least 1 million USD.  Since its independence from the United Kingdom’s rule, Singapore has become one of the largest exporters and importers in the world. Because of the country’s low tax rate, it has also become a haven for the wealthy, including those such as Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin. Despite Singapore’s economic improvement, the number of individuals living in poverty has also been increasing in recent years.

To address the rising poverty, Caritas, an international Catholic confederation, has established a campaign called Singaporeans Against Poverty (SAP)The campaign aims to reveal the socioeconomic gap between Singapore’s renowned millionaires and the natives living in poverty. Bertha Henson of SAP identified the message of the organization as an effort “to alert people here that there are poor in our midst.”

The Singaporean government has denied the presence of poor and homeless individuals in Singapore. In 2001, Kishore Mahbubani, a former diplomat, declared, “there are no homeless, destitute or starving people in Singapore. Poverty has been eradicated…through a unique partnership between the government, corporate citizens, self-help groups and voluntary initiatives.”

Even though homeless individuals can be seen on the streets of Singapore, the Singaporean government refuses to acknowledge them or establish a poverty line. A poverty line is a method of measurement used to gauge poverty in terms of the minimum level on income. Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Social and Family Development in Singapore, explained that the Singaporean government does not want to implement a poverty threshold because “[it] does not fully reflect the severity and complexity of the issues faced by poor families.” Sing also compared Singapore to other developed and wealthy nations, such as Canada and New Zealand, that also do not have poverty lines.

Singapore’s response to the rising number of poor nationals has upset many Singaporeans. Belmont Lay, a writer and Singaporean, reprimanded Singapore as a “country that is known for defining everything but when the time comes to draw the line at who is poor, or rather, poor enough, we falter.”

– Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: Global Voices Online, The Diplomat, Caritas
Photo: Yaw Yong Xin