Photo of elderly from Facebook

Women’s rights activist group AWARE wrote an opinion article to state media TodayOnline expressing their dissatisfaction with the latest income report published last week, slamming it as inaccurate.

AWARE’s head of research, Jolene Tan, took issue with the definition of “household income” used by the government, saying that income inequality is actually higher than presented:

“First, the reported trends in “household income”, such as real growth in median household income, reflect only “resident households with at least one working person” because the data was analysing income from work. However, resident households comprised solely of non-working persons aged 60 years and above have formed an increasing proportion of households over the last decade, reaching 11.8 per cent in 2017. If this group was included, a much higher degree of income inequality would show. Similarly, if capital income such as rent, interests, and dividends from accumulated wealth were considered, inequality would have been higher.”

The women’s rights activist also pointed out that even the government statistics itself show that the rich received higher income growth compared to the poor:

“Second, richer households are seeing greater income growth than poorer ones. If the top 10 per cent is excluded, the trend is clear across the decile groups. Growth was lowest for the bottom decile group (2.1 per cent), rising fairly steadily through the higher decile groups, and peaking for the 81st to 90th percentiles (4.5 per cent).”

Jolene Tan also questioned what are the “government transfers” that was used to lower the GINI coefficient by 20% from 0.459 to 0.401:

“Third, it would be useful to have more detail on government transfers to households. Not all households successfully apply for financial schemes for which they theoretically qualify. SingStat could improve the quality of public understanding by going beyond a list of schemes, to give figures for transfers made and expected transfers based on qualifying criteria, both disaggregated by specific schemes, across different recipient household types and household income levels.”

Lastly, AWARE pointed out that the survey excludes maids who should also be included in the income survey to reflect the true measurement of income inequality:

“Fourth, the figures include only resident households, excluding domestic workers. As there are many non-resident workers in Singapore, including both very high and very low wage-earners, looking at resident household income alone may give quite an incomplete understanding of overall wage structures.”

States Times Review has also published a similar analytical article slamming the government for publishing fake statistics. The GINI coefficients were artificially deflated through the definition of “income households”, which excludes employed Singaporeans above the age of 65 (classified as retirees even when they are employed – this group draw among the lowest salaries working as cleaners and security guards in Singapore) and National Service men Full-time (NSFs), who draw as long as S$500 a month.