Singapore’s lowest paid saw highest income rise

Singapore’s poorest paid saw their wages rise the most last year. Source: Wikimedia

Singapore’s tight employment market helped build the median monthly income for employed households by 4.9 per cent in 2015 after accounting for inflation, according to the authorities.

Median monthly household income from employment rose to S$8,666 (US$6,155) last year, up from S$8,292 in 2014, the Department of Statistics’ annual Key Household Income Trends survey reported.

The 4.5-per-cent rise in nominal terms or a 4.9-per-cent increase in real terms once inflation is taken into account.

Standard Chartered Singapore economist Jeff Ng said it was “positive” that household income growth outperformed GDP growth, which came in at just 2 per cent last year.

Households across all income groups studied earned more in 2015.

The lowest 20-per-cent households recorded the swiftest real income growth, partly due to efforts to raise the wages of low-income workers.

Households in the lowest and second-lowest deciles recorded growth of 10.7 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively.

Minister for industry S Iswaran said the income growth numbers were “strong” while noting that real wage growth had outpaced productivity growth in recent years, which was the “the only sustainable way to keep wages – real wages – growing, is for it to be underpinned by productivity growth”.

“So generally, real wages have grown by about 3 per cent per annum, and our productivity has been growing at 0.3, 0.4 per cent per annum – averaged out over the last five years,” he said.

“If real wages continue to outpace productivity growth, then we are impairing our economic competitiveness and that will have, certainly an impact on the longer term, but even in the short term on the businesses and sectors,” the minister said.

The top 10 per cent households and the 21st-30th percentile group saw real income growth of 7.2 per cent. Among the other groups, average household income per household member grew by 5.7-6.7 per cent in real terms in 2015.

From 2005 to 2015, resident employed households in all income groups saw real growth in average household income from work per household member.

More recently, from 2010-15, the lowest 50 per cent households experienced faster real income growth than the top 50 per cent households, according to the city-state.

The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, dipped slightly from 0.464 in 2014 to 0.463 last year.