Home > News > Regional
Thursday September 26, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday September 26, 2013 MYT 6:58:20 AM
THERE are more poor people in Singapore than the numbers seen in official figures, said speakers at a National University of Singapore forum.
To get to grips with the issue, more needs to be done to understand poverty here and tailor measures to the circumstances people face in their daily lives, they said at the forum on building an inclusive society.
To highlight the urgency of addressing the poverty issue, Nominated MP Laurence Lien and labour economist Hui Weng Tat cited sobering figures that show rising income inequality and stagnating wages of the bottom 20% in the past decade.
One problem, said Lien, who heads the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, is the absence of an official definition of the poverty line in Singapore.
The closest measure, he said, is the Statistics Department’s Absolute Household Expenditure on Basic Needs.
It looks at average expenditure on essential needs such as food, clothing and shelter.
The Trade and Industry Ministry pegged this figure at S$1,250 (RM3,218) for a four-person household in 2011.
About 4,830 such working households – or about 2% of all households – had income below this sum. But, Lien said, this measure does not explicitly include transport, education and medical costs.
It also excludes what he called expenditure on “social inclusion”, in which people spend on items or experiences to feel part of a group.
“According to the State, we have about 4,800 poor households and that’s about it. I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
Associate Professor Hui, of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, highlighted the plight of the “working poor” who struggle to make ends meet, saying: “Having a job does not guarantee that a person is not poor.”
A graduate earning S$4,000 (RM10,297) a month could be poor if he were the sole breadwinner with many dependants, he said.
In the European Union, for instance, the working poor refers to those with a disposable income that is below 60% of the national median household income, adjusted for family members.
Lien cited a local study that estimates 6% to 8% of working households here – or 70,000 to 90,000 households – earned below S$1,500 (RM3,861) a month and can be called the working poor.
With NUS social work professor Irene Ng, who rounded off the panel, the speakers called for more targeted measures to help the poor. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
Tags / Keywords:
Regional, 'More poor people in S'pore than figures show'
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)