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askST: Is there a breakdown for the General Household Survey's percentage for dual income families?

Reader Mulan Quan wrote to askST and noted that among the key household changes stated in the latest General Household Survey is the fact that 53.8% of married couples are dual income couples.

She observed that this percentage seems low and asked: "Is there a breakdown on age group, education levels and reasons for the 46 per cent that are not working?

"If we can persuade these 46 per cent  to work full time/part time, this might alleviate the shortage of manpower in Singapore.  What are the programs / incentives that might helps to bring more to join the workforce ?  Would having more child care centres, senior citizen centres help?" 

She also asked: "How does this percentage compare to the other advanced economy in USA, Nordic countries, or closer home, in Korea, Taiwan ?"

Deputy News Editor (Political) Zakir Hussain answers. 

Table 6.2 on page 38 of the attached report gives a breakdown on the proportion of married couples where both partners work, by age group.

Although nearly 54 per cent of married couples are dual income couples, this figure is much higher - over 75 per cent - for those where the husband is under 35, and 70 per cent for those where the husband is aged 35-49. But it goes down to 52.3 per cent where the men are 50-64. 

The average is low because it includes all married couples, including those 65 and above.

You can find more details here.
 
The survey does not go into the reasons into why one partner is not working. But observers suggest a host of factors are at work: looking after young children, aged parents, or even participation in part-time/flexi or undeclared work arrangements. More child care and senior centres might help, but only to a point. This figure is also set to remain high as people work past 65. 

We have not been able to draw direct comparisons across developed economies, but the average proportion of dual-income families overall hovers around 60 per cent in the US (2012 figure) and in Japan 

More askST stories here.