2 Inequalities & Income: Local

2.1        Statistics

  • 1 in 10 Singaporeans are unable to meet basic needs in the form of food, clothing, shelter and other essential expenditures.14
  • Singapore is ranked the 3rd richest country in the world, with a GDP (PPP) per capita of nearly US$56,700.15
  • Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked Singapore as the most expensive city to live for three years in a row16
  • The top 10% wage earning households earn approximately 25 times more than the bottom 10%17
  • The top 20% of earners saw their real wages rise by 27% between 1998 and 201018
  • The bottom 20% of earners saw their real wages fall by 8% over the same period19

2.2        The Challenge

According to former GIC Chief Economist, Yeoh Lam Keong, 110,000 to 140,000 households in Singapore are unable to meet basic needs, where60% of these households have at least an individual earning an income. This highlights certain structural issues at play, which cannot merely be resolved through the hard work of an individual.

On a macro level, there is a need to re-examine the role of the government and individual responsibility and adjust wages so that everyone can earn an income that meets their living needs. On a micro level, addressing mindsets and judgements surrounding people living in poverty is crucial to tackling poverty and building an inclusive society. No one chooses to live in poverty.

Read more: The Four Myths of Inequality in Singapore

Read more: Why Low-Income Parents May Make ‘Poor Choices’

2.3        The Opportunity

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings” ~ Nelson Mandela

Eradicating poverty in all its forms remains one of the greatest challenges facing our generation – but it is possible. Globally, more than 800 million people are living on less than US$1.90 (S$2.60) a day. They are unable to meet basic needs, many lacking access to adequate, nutritious food, clean drinking water and sanitation.

“While rapid economic growth countries such as China and India has lifted millions out of poverty, the progress is uneven. Women are disproportionately more likely to live in poverty than men due to unequal access to paid work, education and property. Progress has also been limited in other regions, such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, which account for 80 percent of the global total of those living in extreme poverty. This rate is expected to rise due to new threats brought on by climate change, conflict and food insecurity.”²


14Estimation derived from (2012). Key Household Income Trends. Singapore: Department of Statistics Singapore. Retrieved from Singaporeans Against Poverty: sgagainstpoverty.org

15S’pore is 3rd-richest country: Forbes. (26 Feb, 2012). Retrieved from The Straits Times.

16Worldwide cost of living survey. (10 Mar, 2016). Retrieved from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/03/daily-chart-4

17(2012). Key Household Income Trends. Singapore: Department of Statistics Singapore.

18Economic Growth and Inequality in Singapore: The Case for a Minimum Wage”, International Labour Review, Vol 152, No. 1, (2013), pp. 107-123.


2.4        Resources

2.5 Past Projects

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