Quality of life has little to do with income

HDB blocks in Toa Payoh.
HDB blocks in Toa Payoh.PHOTO: ST FILE

How much is enough to meet the basic needs of a household (Higher living standards raises issue of basic needs, Aug 5)?

To examine this, we should also explore the difference between higher standard of living and quality of life.

When we assess standard of living, we usually refer to the wealth, comfort and material goods that are available to a particular socioeconomic class.

On the other hand, how much is sufficient for one's basic needs?

This basically leads us to examine the quality of life, which is subjective.

To some of us, employment opportunities, environmental quality, Internet access and access to a meaningful education are factors important in determining quality of life.

Our standard of living is defined by the way we can afford to live, which makes it dependent on our salary, bills and savings.

It determines the neighbourhood we live in, the type of material goods we can buy, the type of vacations we can take, and so on. Standard of living does have some optionality to it, because although we may be able to afford very expensive items, we don't actually have to choose to purchase it.

However, if we choose to live above our means, it can also create so much debt that it severely impacts the real standard of living we can afford now and later.

Quality of life has little to do with income but more to do with our personal needs. It focuses on our ability to spend our time doing those things that are meaningful to us.

While someone with a low income may have to spend more hours working and have fewer personal hours, their quality of life can still be determined by how they decide to spend those few precious hours of personal time, despite the absence of material goods.

Tan Kok Heng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2019, with the headline 'Quality of life has little to do with income'. Print Edition | Subscribe