$6693 is the Minimum Income Standard in Singapore Today [ft Assoc Prof Teo You Yenn & Dr Ng Kok Hoe]

Minimum Liveable Wage in Singapore: What Experts Say You Really Need

Associate Prof Teo You Yenn and Dr Ng Kok Hoe shed light on Singapore’s minimum liveable wage from an in-depth 6 year research. As leading researchers on poverty and inequality, their work provides crucial context in understanding the basic costs of living well in Singapore today.

In the wide-ranging conversation, Associate Prof Teo You Yenn and Dr Ng Kok Hoe walk through their groundbreaking Minimum Income Standards (MIS) research methodology. Through consensus-building focus groups across age groups, the experts validated budgets item-by-item to determine needs versus wants.

Guests introduction:

Associate Prof Teo You Yenn, a sociologist with 15 years of experience at NTU, has dedicated her research to understanding poverty, inequality, and issues surrounding care and gender inequality. She is also the bestselling author of “This Is What Inequality Looks Like.”

Dr Ng Kok Hoe, a social policy researcher at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, specialises in housing security, homelessness, and retirement income issues. Teo and Ng are the key figures behind the influential website whatsenough.sg, which offers valuable insights into the concept of “enough” in terms of financial stability.

Exploring Minimum Income Standards:

The conversation began with Associate Prof Teo You Yenn and Dr Ng Kok Hoe discussing the motivation behind their research on minimum income standards. Associate Prof Teo You Yenn emphasised the importance of addressing the question of what constitutes “enough” in a society where certain groups struggle to meet their basic needs. To answer this question, they adopted a consensual approach that involved conducting focus group discussions with a diverse range of Singaporeans from various walks of life.

As Associate Prof Teo explains, “We go room by room in the HDB flat. We say, tell me everything you need in the living room in order to achieve what this definition says.”

But arriving at an agreed definition of basic standard of living itself was no small task. According to Associate Prof Teo, participants debated intangible needs like “belonging, security, independence, and respect.” While the government contends these are “wants, not needs,” public discussions showed most feel they are “squarely needs” in modern Singapore. As Dr Ng  adds, “It should not depend on wealth. Everyone deserves to have that. That’s basic.”

The current revised Minimum Income Standards budgets for three indicative household types in 2023 are:

  • $3,369 for a single parent with one child aged 2–6 years old;
  • $6,693 for a couple with two children aged 7­–12 and 13–18 years old; and
  • $1,492 for a single elderly person 65 years and older.

Top 5 Unexpectedly Controversial Items in the MIS Budgets:

  1. Microwaves – some seniors argued they’re convenient while others cited health concerns.
  2. Red wine – one insistence it increases blood flow met stiff resistance.
  3. Mobile phones – parents debated appropriate ages and functions.
  4. Extra furniture – debates centered on guests versus clutter.
  5. Bubble tea – a necessity for youth social lives but not as much for seniors.

With months spent pricing each item, researchers were comfortable defending results. However, the experts stress budgets represent a starting point for discussion, not perfection. As Dr Ng Kok Hoe shares, “Our needs change over the life course…the budget allows for some degree of choice.”

Implications and References:

The conversation also discussed the implications of their research and the relevance of minimum income standards in Singapore. Associate Prof Teo and Dr Ng acknowledged the uncertainty faced by individuals, even those with middle to high incomes, due to the constantly shifting benchmarks set by governmental reports. To address this, they encouraged listeners to explore the whatsenough.sg website, which serves as a valuable reference point for understanding financial planning and determining a realistic target to strive for.

Though debates persist around defining true needs, the MIS research undeniably adds crucial context for individuals, families, and policymakers in understanding living costs and crafting support systems. For Singaporeans wanting financial security amid rising prices, these experts’ candid insights are well worth your time.

You can check their full interview on Chills w TFC, Episode 156 on Spotify, YouTube, Google podcast or Apple podcast for a candid conversation on minimum income standards provided a fresh perspective on addressing poverty and inequality in Singapore. By involving ordinary citizens in determining what constitutes “enough,” they shed light on the essential resources and opportunities necessary for a basic standard of living. Their insights, coupled with their extensive research, offer valuable guidance for policymakers, individuals, and families striving for financial stability in Singapore.

For our upcoming March 2024 event, we are helping you level up your Financial Wellness stats with emphasis on Retirement and on Couples managing money together. Join us to learn how you can leverage on you, and your partner to make better financial decisions. We hope to see you at our event!

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