Low-Income Households In Singapore Spending More Than They Earn
According to the latest Household Expenditure Survey which was conducted by Department of Statistics (SINGSTAT) from October 2017 to September 2018, the bottom 20% of Singapore households are facing a shortage of S$335 on average every month.
The survey, conducted once every five years involved information on households’ expenditure, socio-economic characteristics, and ownership of consumer durables of 13,000 households.
On average, the lower-income group are spending S$2,570 a month while earning a monthly income of S$2,235 including government aid such as Workfare.
According to Associate Professor Teo You Yenn, Head of Sociology at the Nanyang Technological University, the shortage is a sign that their well-being is being compromised.
“People generally adjust spending to expected income, meaning that people with lower income already forgo spending that higher-income people consider basic needs, including educational needs such as tuition, nutritious food, healthcare, and leisure and social activities important for overall well-being,” said Assoc Prof Teo.
Government & community aid
Low-income families receive help from the government via government transfers including ad hoc ones, as well as rebates or subsidies.
According to Lily Neo, Jalan Besar GRC MP and deputy chairperson of the GPC for health, there are many Government schemes to help low-income families to cover healthcare expenses.
“Affordability-wise, I think Singapore is pretty good in terms of healthcare. The 3M system – Medisave, MediShield and MediFund – is pretty comprehensive to ensure that no one is deprived of healthcare due to a lack of means,” she said.
However, many are unaware of such aids or schemes while some are unwilling to seek for help making it difficult for government to help them out.
One of the findings of the survey is that the usage of comforts such as air-conditioners and Internet subscriptions have increased among the low-income household compared to five years ago.
According to MSF spokesperson, the Government reviews schemes for low-income families regularly to ensure that their coverage and criteria are responsive to the needs of beneficiaries.
One such scheme is ComCare.
“For example, telecommunications items such as broadband access and mobile subscriptions are recognised as essential needs and are factored into the ComCare assistance provided,” the spokesperson added.
Some organisations provide low-income families with meals and food vouchers while others offer courses to upgrade their skills, and medical and mental-health services.
What can you do?
If you come across individuals or families who are in need of assistance, approach the nearest social service office or call the ComCare hotline.
Meanwhile, charities and self-help groups such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) and the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) are also actively doing their part to help the low-income groups.
The long-term solution
Despite the aids from various parties, the low-income group needs skills and knowledge to break out of their current situation.
According to a spokesperson from North West Community Development Council (CDC) they work with various partners to provide students from low-income families with financial literacy skills and knowledge through various programmes.
The POSB Matched Savings Programme which is open to primary school students who either receive financial assistance from the Ministry of Education or who are beneficiaries of the School Pocket Money Fund helps to support the students and their parents in learning the importance of cultivating good saving habits and equips them with money management skills.