What proportion of households are ‘in-work poverty’?

I refer to the article “Household incomes rise in 2017, but at slower pace for bottom 50%” (Straits Times, Feb 8).

It states that “From 2012 to 2017, median monthly household income from work rose by 15.5 per cent cumulatively in real terms, or 2.9 per cent a year.”

As we have consistently refused to have a “poverty line” indicator – I understand that other countries’ have a “poverty” indicator called  “in-work poverty” which “is defined as individuals living in households where the household income is below the poverty threshold despite one member of the household working either full or part-time. The poverty threshold is defined as under 60% of the average household income (before housing costs). This group contains non-working household members such as children and non-working partners”.

According to the Department of Statistics Household Income Trends 2017 Report – the Average Monthly Household Income from Work Among Resident Employed Households in 2017, was $12,027.

Using the “under 60% of the average household income (before housing costs)” definition – the figure is $7,216 ($12,027 x 60%).

Looking at Table 8 (page 31) in the report – this is about 34 per cent of employed households, with income below $7,000.

Is this relatively low or high, compared to other developed countries?

In recent years – the analysis in the Household Income Trends Reports were based on “including employer CPF contribution”, instead of “excluding employer CPF contribution” in the past.

So, if we make an adjustment for the employer and employee CPF contributions – the net disposable household income may be $4,786 ($7,000 less 37 per cent CPF contributions).


Leong Sze Hian




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7 Responses to “What proportion of households are ‘in-work poverty’?”

  • opposition dude:

    Uncle Leong, no need for a poverty line because there already is one.

    It’s called Workfare.

    I can’t remember what is the starting amount for it but you can use that figure to have an official unofficial poverty line. I think it starts at $1200 and goes up to $1800 or so.

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  • Singapore's harsh inequality:

    ” In terms of work hours, Singaporeans work the longest among the developed countries – 2,237 hours annually. People in Hong Kong work the second-longest, at 2,175 hours, while South Korea comes in third at 2,088 hours. Taiwanese endure long hours as well, but not to the same extent as their counterparts in the other Asian Tigers do, clocking in 1,915 hours per year.
    It would also be reasonable to conclude that the situation for low-income workers in Singapore is completely out of whack – they earn comparatively low wages, work long hours and can only take short breaks, but suffer from scant social protection. Workers have limited protection from unemployment.

    Singapore’s harsh inequality therefore also results in the country having one of the lowest purchasing powers (as measured by purchasing power parity) when compared with the high-income countries. Even though Singapore has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, because the wage share is low and inequality is high, wages are therefore relatively low. This, coupled with being the most expensive place to live in the world, equates to low purchasing power.
    Singapore’s socio-economic structure embodies many of the fundamentalist views on eugenics expressed by Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. In 1969, the late Lee said in parliament: “free education and subsidized housing lead to a situation where less economically productive people in the community are reproducing themselves at rates higher than the rest.”
    The irony is that it is these very beliefs that have resulted in Singapore developing along such unequal lines. Singapore’s government has implemented these ideas to their full extent, treating the poor with contemptible disdain. If “society will decline” – as Lee put it – then it is because of his own ideals. By marginalizing the poor and denying them opportunities to move up the social ladder – Singapore’s social mobility is low because of its inequality – the Singapore government reinforces structural poverty. The poor cannot move up not because they do not want to, but because they are not allowed to. The examples of the Nordics show that that where resources are distributed equally and everyone is uplifted as a whole, society progresses together. Whether or not the current leaders in Singapore subscribe to the late Lee’s views, they have continued to indulge them. ….”

    ps, if the links failed, use the Title header to ” Search instead for ” Title header to access link,

    The Bitter Truth: Why Asia’s Tigers Suffer while the Nordics Thrive …

    ICONOCLASSING Pt 3 or RH Zero Sum Game Theory – I came, I saw, I …

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  • Sad Old Man:

    Hi Bro Leong,

    CPF contribution is capped at S$6000.

    For a S$7000, total Employer and Employee CPF combined contribution is S$2257, if you are below 55 years old.


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  • PAP has the mandate:

    Once again, Singapore is not a developed country yet and neither a first world country.

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  • Always Remember:

    These days Singapore no longer necessary means Singaporean.

    Singapore can be developed (just look up around you) but Singaporean may not (just look around you).

    Singapore can be first world country (everything works optimally) but Singaporean may not (most don’t have optimal work)

    PAP has the mandate:
    Once again, Singapore is not a developed country yet and neither a first world country.

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  • HarderTruths:

    All these workers voted for pappies? Then why the issue? Clearly they are happy with their lot.

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  • Mean salary need to go up:

    The sad truth is that many families mean Salary is too low to survive…
    More need to be done as the Income distribution is too uneven..
    The social divide is too great here…Mean salary need to go up much higher…

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