a community of singaporeans

Uniquely Singapore – F1 or F9: Income statistics?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on February 13, 2008

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Economic growth key to dealing with rising costs: PM: He says incomes must rise more than inflation, and growth means more income” (ST, Feb 9).

It states that “Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated that while measures can be taken to deal with rising living costs, the way to deal with the issue was by growing the economy so that real incomes rise more than inflation.

He said on Thursday that when the economy grew by 7.5 per cent last year, incomes did not just rise at the top end, but across the board. ‘Even (at) the bottom, the middle, everybody’s real income went up'”.

In this connection, I would like to refer to various statistics available, for various available time periods, in respect of median monthly incomes (full-time and part-time), median monthly incomes (full-time), median monthly incomes for part-timers, household income, average incomes, private homes versus public flats incomes, etc.

Although the median gross monthly income of full-time employed residents has grown 2.9 per cent a year in the past decade to $2,040 as of June 2006, the number of part-timers has more than doubled over the decade from 51,400 to 112,300, expanding their share of employment from 3.5 per cent to 6.3 per cent.

The median monthly income for all employed residents (full-time and part-time) stagnated at $2,000 for the years 2001 to 2004.

Income grew by only $40 to $2,040, from 2001 to 2006, or 0.4 per cent per annum. Income growth may have been negative, after adjusting for inflation for the last five years.

In January 2008, the Minister of Health, in moving for the implementation of means testing starting at the median income cited the figure of $2,170 for full-time employed residents.

However, the median income for full-time employed residents may not be the same as that for employed residents (full-time and part-time) cited in previous statistics.

Even if we discount any such differences, does this means that the median wage growth from 2001 to 2007, was only 1.4 per cent per annum?

Also, the incomes of about 30 per cent of households at the bottom have not caught up with inflation, and have declined in inflation-adjusted terms from 2000 to 2005.

According to the Minister of State for Trade and Industry’s (Mr Lee Yi Shyan) maiden speech in Parliament in November 2006, “the monthly income of the lowest paid group declined between 2000 and 2005. At the household level, between 1990 and 2005, households in the lowest 20% actually saw their household income decline over the same period between 2000 and 2005”.

The median monthly income for part-timers is still the same at $500 compared to 10 years ago.

In view of the 118 per cent increase in part-timers for the last decade, more residents are working for an income of $500 that has not changed for 10 years.

Although ‘average incomes rose overall by 1.1 per cent a year’ (from 1998 to 2003), perhaps a more significant statistic is the median income, as this, at the 50th percentile, would reflect whether the bottom 50 per cent of the population are better or worse off.

The ‘% Change Per Annum – Average Monthly Household Income By Quintile, 1998 and 2003’, was -0.6 per cent and zero per cent respectively for the second and third quintile.

Does this mean that incomes did not increase for about 50 per cent of households? In this connection, the percentage share of households with no working persons increased from 4.5 per cent in 1998 to 7.4 per cent in 2003.

While the household income of those living in private homes grew, those in public flats fell by 0.4 per cent per annum, from $3,860 in 1998 to $3,790 in 2003. Since about 88 per cent of the population live in public flats, does this mean that the majority of Singaporeans were worse off?

In contrast, according to the HDB Household Survey, ‘average household income of HDB flat dwellers rose from $3,719 to $4,238 a month’.

How is it possible that the Department of Statistics Household Survey differs so markedly from the HDB Household Survey for apparently the same period, for such a crucial statistic?

I would like to point out that when different data for different time periods are made available, it may make any income data analysis, extremely difficult, and thus, harder to draw conclusions on whether and to what extent, what groups of Singaporeans are better or worse of, as a reflection of economic growth, wage growth and inflation.

Perhaps the increase in the number of pawnshops by almost 40 per cent over the last 5 years, and the increase in pawnshop loans from $1.26 billion in 2003, to $1.57 billion in 2006, may provide an alternative indication of how Singaporeans may be coping with the rising cost of living, vis-à-vis their income.


In the article “Govt taking steps to narrow income gap”, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew spoke about the government’s plans to close the income gap.
(ST, Feb 2).

The following is a point-by-point rebuttal :-

“To help shrink the gap, Mr Lee listed various measures the Government had taken to raise the salaries of the lower-income, such as skills upgrading and job redesign.”

The wages of the bottom 30 per cent of workers have been declining since 2000
and the number of low-wage workers keep increasing. “Wage inequality in
Singapore is the highest by far compared with all OECD countries” (BT, Feb 2).

“Then we’re making up with Workfare and other supplements.”

106,000 lower-income self-employed have dropped out of Workfare after just 1 year.

“The Government’s home ownership policy, adding that newly-weds receive grants of up to $ 40,000 to $ 50,000 to start off, and HDB flats had risen in value over the years”

What’s the point of getting a $ 40,000 housing grant, when the price of a HDB flat increases by more than $ 40,000 ? And if you can’t pay, you lose your home, and maybe your CPF too. The HDB price index now, is still below it’s last high in 1996.

“We’re topping up by giving them subsidies for the conservancy, the power, water, many different ways where expenditure is necessary and cannot be avoided”

As charges keep going up, subsidies may not be keeping up with rising fees, especially when inflation has hit a 25-year high

“However, he is not in favour of subsidising transport “because then you will have unnecessary travel””

Subsidising travel is not free unlimited travel. So, how can there be “unnecessary travel” by lower-income people who are already finding it hard to make ends meet ?

“The biggest problem, as Mr Lee saw it, is getting people to understand they are in charge of their own medical problems, weight and diet”

How can people be “in charge of their own medical problems” ? No amount of healthy lifestyle can ensure no health problems. An example, is the Prime Minister who had cancer in his 40s.

“The state topped up Medisave accounts to help people meet medical costs.”

Small amounts of top-ups periodically that never seems to catch up with ever
increasing medical costs, with healthcare inflation hitting 6.3 per cent in December 2007.



9 Responses to “Uniquely Singapore – F1 or F9: Income statistics?”

  1. Robert HO said


    January 29, 2001; Dr Chee Soon Juan; Secretary-General, Singapore Democratic Party; Speech given at Stanford University, Institute for International Studies.

    [RH excerpt]:

    “In the Global Competitiveness Report 1999 which surveyed a total of 59 countries, Singaporean workers, especially those in manual jobs, were found to be relatively one of the worst paid in the world. The median wage of an office cleaner or driver, adjusted for productivity, “is among the lowest in 59 countries worldwide.” Only Russia, Ukraine and Ecuador are paid less. Secretaries don’t do much better, their wages rank 50 among the 59 countries.

    “During the Asia crisis, monthly wages for low-skilled workers fell up to 34 percent from $746 in 1998 to $492 in 1999. During that period, 16 percent of the work force earned below $1000 a month. Nearly 30 percent of households were not earning enough to afford the minimum standard of life. But when the crisis was over, salary increases among 14 Asian economies was the lowest in Singapore. While Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan had rewarded their workers between five to eight percent in wage increments (after accounting for inflation), Singapore averaged only 3.6 percent with the number predicted to decrease to 2.9 percent this year. It was reported that between 1998 and 2000, the average monthly income of the lowest 10 percent of households fell further by half to $133. The subsistence level in Singapore is estimated to be $1000 for a household of four persons.”

    1. There really is no puzzle to the LIEgime’s huge hoard of OUR monies. It is all a simple matter of innumerable SCAMS from HDB flat pricings to CPF paying less than inflation so the govt makes money from our monies without lifting a finger, then the decades-long policies of OVERTAX & UNDERSPEND.

    2. This explains everything. OVERTAX car ownership costs, housing costs, public transport costs, taxi costs, GST costs, etc, and UNDERSPEND on healthcare so we keep paying more and more as the govt reduces even the fake ‘subsidies’, upgrading of HDB estates, which is also politically biased to pressure voters into voting PAP, schools and education underspending, etc.

    3. This deliberate, cruel, policy of OVERTAX & UNDERSPEND gives the govt huge sums of OUR monies to play with, for lavish spending on pet projects from the armed forces military toys to giving free money grants to attract such sexy projects as the failed UNSW and sexy high tech factories and the latest fad, the biomed factories, etc.

    4. The huge hoards of money are also used to pay themselves the S$3.7m + bonuses + perks + pensions, etc, each of the Ministers plus equally generous pays and perks to senior judges, senior bureaucrats, senior civil services personnel to keep them all happy and loyal. Thus, OUR monies are used to keep THEM in power.

    5. The huge cash hoard also allows LKY LHL PAP to give the Americans US$3 billion in 2005 so they will support the LIEgime indefinitely, these billions to be increased and continued every 2 years [but no news of the second payment]. See? They use OUR monies to stay in power by buying allies from within the civil service to without, as in the case of the corrupt Americans.

    6. This is how PAPadise works.

    7. Thank you, Mr LEONG, for another brilliant article.

  2. ptc said

    When the minister of Transport says Taxi drivers gets $300 per day, you know the government’s numbers are all out of whack. What else is there to trust in the PM and MM statistics? All I know is that my CPF is gonna get stuck forever! There is no pension / state welfare in Singapore, but there sure is hell a lot of hoodlums holding my CPF money and not giving it back. If the government is holding my money and betting big on Subprime hit banks, I think I would prefer to hold my cash.

  3. LifesLikeThat said

    If income is going up, why is the govt asking singaporeans not to buy branded bread? And now ask Singaporeans to buy frozen food as it is “50% cheaper”??

    I am sick of the propaganda. All you journalists in the ST should be ashame.

  4. laicf said

    The present local universities tuition fees are more than I paid for the FULL TUITION FEE where studing in UK 1983:

    1983 1st Year:…..£2,700 (at £1 = S$3 or S$8,100)

    1984 2nd Year:…..£3,100 (at £1 = S$3 or S$9,300)

    1985 FInal Year of £3,700 = S$11,100.

    And friends, it is FULL FEES, not subsidised at what SIngaporeans are paying now.

    And I understand from yesterday CNA News that a NUS (or is it NTU?) hostel for one-bed room type is S$100 per week and 2-bed rom type is S$70.00.

    Whereas in UK for my 3-year of study, my one-bed room student hostel within the campus is averaging £15 per week (S$45.00). And with following facilities:
    – Free cleaning and vacuuming of room by cleaner once a week.
    – Free change of bed-sheet and pillow case once a week.
    – All utilities – water, electricity, heating – are free of charge.

    And PAP Government said it is SUBSIDISED!!!!….

    And when The Straits Times made an estimate in 2004 that it will cost a SIngpaorean about S$277,000 to bring up a child from conception to graduation from a local university…and tuition fee at that time is S$6,000 per annum.

    And with this dastardly inflation in 2008 and beyond, I beleive that it may cost as much as S$350,000 now to bring up a child from 2008 conception to 2032 graduaiton from a local university.

    We have now:

    – No affordable HDB housing if your household income exceeds S$8,000. An expensive EC if below S$10,000 ceiling.

    – Price increase for basic utilities, transportation and grocery bill.

    – Salary increase not matching to inflation.

    – “Mean testing” equates to higher medical-care spendings.

    – And now, increase in tuition fees.

    No wonder our brith rate is slighly above 37,000 in 2007, as no decent thinkign SIngaporeans will think of bringing up a child in SIngapore if they wanted to maintain their present child-free lifestyle.

    And this “Cost Plus’ PAP Government had indeed turned a bundle of joy into a burden of joy.

  5. im sick and tired of this fxxking place of impotent citizens!

  6. Singapore Resident said

    Thank GOD for retirement i now have CPF Lies…oops i meant CPF Life

  7. laicf said

    Don’t blackfeline, it is not so bad a place from a peson like me havng work in Dubai and now working in Macau.
    Old Guards will die off..eventually…..and really…by GE2011, we will really know as to whether GEN-Y or Millennials are impotent as well….

  8. Robert HO said

    RH: BlackFeline, “the sins of the parents are visited upon their children”. Have you any? Better pray.

    *Comments edited by moderator.

  9. Expected Analysis said

    My deep respect for you, Sze Hian, for rebutting our govt. over these issues. Singapore needs many more prominent people like you to raise issues and press for accountability. Only then, the majority pathetic citizens will rise from their slumber.

    Singaporeans in general have been made to sacrifice for the benefit of the ruling party. The high cost of living is mandated by the govt.

    Every aspect of our lives has been taxed directly and indirectly so that the annual surplus less govt expenditure will be to their credit; to showcase their capability and to justify their unjustifiable high pay.

    Transforming govt into a business concept by offering performance bonus based on the economy and the related surplus on top of their already ill-justified pay, will only encourage the ministers and their entourage to devise more creative ways to tax the public, reduce subsidies and perpetuate the rise of property prices.

    The US sub-prime crisis didn’t happen overnight. It was a by-product of greed. Everyone in the financial services were encouraged to go all out to create business in any way possible. Extending credits and dishing out loans to just about anybody was the way to go. Record fat bonuses were handled out to CEOs, etc.

    Our jobless rate may be at an all time low now. Problem is the pay and the pay rises cannot cope with
    inflation and the associated cost of living in S’pore. The problem is compounded by the massive influx of foreign workers which will depress the salaries of Singaporeans.

    With the widening income gap, depressed salaries, high inflation, the prices of property is still being perked up by the govt. The best way to tie a Singaporean down is through debt.

    As long as one remains in S’pore, one will be taxed till one drops.

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