60 per cent of Singapore households earn less than national average

Sixty per cent of the households earn less than the average household income in Singapore while the top 20 per cent can save twice as much as they spend.

That's clear from the government statistics department's latest household expenditure survey covering 2007-2008. This chart from the survey shows the average monthly household income of all the income groups.

 Singapore_average_household
It says the average monthly household income was 7,440 Singapore dollars (about $5,390) in 2007-2008, up from 5,535 Singapore dollars in 2002-2003, when the last survey was done.

But look at the highlighted row outlined in red. That represents the 41st to 60th income quintile. And what's their average monthly household income? 5,480 Singapore dollars in 2007-2008, up from 4,193 Singapore dollars in 2002-2003.

That means the average monthly income of 60 per cent of the households was 5,480 Singapore dollars — nearly 2,000 Singapore dollars less than the national average household income.

Boosting the average household income are the high earners. The top 20 per cent's average household income of 18,472 Singapore dollars is more than six times as much as the bottom 20 per cent's — and more than three times as 60 per cent of the households'.

The income gap has grown slightly since 2002-2003 when the average household income was 5,535 Singapore dollars but 60 percent of the households earned on average 4,193 Singapore dollars — 1,300 Singapore dollars less.

One reason for the growing gap:

Singapore has the highest concentration of millionaires, with 8.5 per cent of the households owning more than $1 million last year, reported the Boston Consulting Group in September this year.

Home ownership, TVs, washing machines, mobile phones for almost every family

It's not as if all the lower income groups are in dire straits. Home ownership is as high as 92 per cent in the public housing estates and 88 per cent of all households in private housing are living under their own roofs. TV sets are found in 99.5 per cent of the homes,  washing machines in 94.7 per cent, mobile phones in 95 per cent and air-conditioners in 74.7 per cent of all households. Again, these are national averages. Just 49 per cent of the bottom 20 per cent have air-conditioners though 87 per cent of them own washing machines.

The difference between the better-off and the less well-off shows in other ways. For example:

Do you own a car (38.3 per cent of all households, up from 35.4 per cent in 2002-2003)

Pay TV subscriptions (44.8 per cent, up from 34.9 per cent)

Digital cameras (52.7 per cent, up from 17.5 per cent)

But it's not as if cars are owned just by the rich.

In fact, just 69 per cent of the top 20 per cent own cars — and so do 10 per cent of the bottom 20 per cent.

The rich can save twice as much as they spend

The big difference is in how much the rich can save. Compare the average monthly incomes and expenditures of all the income groups. Apparently, the bottom 20 per cent live hand to mouth. Others can save. The top 20 per cent on average can save twice as much as they spend. You can see the difference here. All the figures are from the survey.

Income quintile Average monthly household income Average monthly household expenditure
Total SGD7,440 SGD3,764
1st-20th quintile SGD1,274 SGD1,760
21st-40th quintile SGD3,476 SGD2,881
41st-60th quintile SGD5,480 SGD3,571
61st-80th quintile SGD8,495 SGD4,532
81st-100th quintile SGD18,472 SGD6,078

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