Incomes at bottom rise but Government will do more to help: Chan Chun Sing

Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing gave figures to show that incomes at the bottom continue to rise but said the Government will do more to help low-income Singaporeans.

He was responding to Nominated MP Tan Su Shan's question on social mobility.

The real median gross monthly income for employed residents increased 1.3 per cent a year from 2002 to 2012, after rising 2.7 per cent a year from 1996 to 2002, Mr Chan said.

For the lowest 20th percentile of employed residents, their real gross monthly income rose 0.1 per cent each year from 2002 to 2012, and 2.2 per cent a year from 1996 to 2002.

These figures are in real terms, that is adjusted for inflation. They are also before government transfers such as the Workfare Income Supplement given to top up incomes of low-wage workers.

Another measure of absolute social mobility is educational attainment.

Here, the percentage of Singaporeans who did not complete secondary education has dropped to 1 per cent today, from 4 per cent ten years ago, and 10 per cent twenty years ago.

Those Singaporeans with a post-secondary education, has increased to 94 per cent today, from 86 per cent ten years ago, and 60 per cent twenty years ago, he said.

Mr Chan said the Government, however, does not have data to track relative social mobility, which is the proportion of people who have moved up or down the socio-economic scale relative to the rest of their cohort over time.

"This reflects the churn amongst income groups in our society. We do not have data on such churn as it requires longitudinal studies over a long period of time," said Mr Chan.

He added that while the Government has tried to track inter-generational movements for social mobility, it has not found any studies to be "particularly complete".

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.