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More low-income households have air-conditioners, Internet access as standard of living rises

SINGAPORE — The proportions of low-income households and those living in one- and two-room flats who have creature comforts — namely air-conditioners and Internet subscriptions — have increased significantly compared with five years ago, the latest household expenditure survey showed.

The Department of Statistics survey released on Wednesday (July 31) found that people in all income groups are earning more today in inflation-adjusted real terms than they did five years ago.

The Department of Statistics survey released on Wednesday (July 31) found that people in all income groups are earning more today in inflation-adjusted real terms than they did five years ago.

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SINGAPORE — The proportions of low-income households and those living in one- and two-room public flats who have creature comforts — namely air-conditioners and Internet subscriptions — have increased significantly compared with five years ago, the latest household expenditure survey showed. 

For example, among households living in one- and two-room public flats, 45 per cent of them have access to the Internet in 2017/18, compared with 22 per cent in 2012/13. And 25 per cent of this group now have air-conditioners, compared with 14 per cent five years ago. And this reflects a higher standard of living and lifestyle changes, among other things, said the Department of Statistics (SingStat) which released the findings on Wednesday (July 31).

The survey, which is done once every five years, also found incomes rose faster than expenditure across most income groups.

Households in the bottom 20 per cent income group were the only ones whose expenditure grew faster than income.

The survey highlighted a signficant increase in Internet access and ownership of air-conditioners among those in smaller public housing units. Illustration: Raymond Limantara/TODAY

The survey also found that households across all income groups are earning more in real terms, or after taking into account inflation, than they did five years ago.

Those in the lowest income group experienced a faster rate of income growth than those in the highest income group over the five-year period.

WHY DO THE RESULTS MATTER?

Data collected from the survey will be used to facilitate studies on income and expenditure patterns, and in compiling the consumer price index, the main measure of inflation.

The survey is conducted once every five years. The latest survey involved 13,100 households in Singapore divided into 26 groups.

The findings from the latest survey are based on data collected in 2017 and 2018 from Singaporean and permanent resident households. It compares findings with those of the previous survey, which is based on data collected between 2012 and 2013.

INCOMES VERSUS EXPENDITURE

In the five-year period, Singapore resident households’ average monthly household income from all sources — including regular income, investments and rental — rose from S$10,470 to S$11,780. This would mean rising by 2.2 per cent a year, after factoring in inflation.

Households spent an average of S$4,910 a month on goods and services, an increase of 0.8 per cent a year from the S$4,720 in 2012/13.

Incomes of those living in one- and two-room flats rose by 6.1 per cent a year in real terms, the highest income growth across all housing types.

The average monthly expenditure of households in one, two, three and five-room and executive flats increased by 0.8 to 3.7 per cent a year.

But for households in HDB four-room flats, condominiums and other apartments, and landed properties, average monthly expenditure remained generally stable.

For the top 20 per cent income group, their average monthly income increased by 1.5 per cent every year in real terms, while their average monthly expenditure remained stable, said SingStat.

For other income groups, the increase in average monthly income was between 2.4 and 3 per cent in real terms. Their average monthly expenditure rose by 0.4 to 3 per cent a year.

SingStat noted that households in the lowest 20 per cent income group were the only group whose expenditure growth (3 per cent a year) outpaced income growth in nominal terms (2.8 per cent per year). In real terms, this group saw their income grow by 2.9 per cent per year. More than one third of these households were headed by a person aged 65 or older in 2017/18.

MORE SPENDING ONLINE, LESS ON TRANSPORT

Housing, food and transport collectively made up the biggest portion at 62 per cent of monthly household expenditure, down from 65 per cent in the previous survey.

Spending on food serving services accounted for 68 per cent of their expenditure on food in 2017/18, higher than the 64 per cent in 2012/13.

On average, households spent S$810 a month on such services compared with S$760 per month five years ago, mainly due to increased spending in restaurants, cafes and pubs.

Nevertheless, meals at hawker centres and food courts continued to constitute the largest share of expenses related to food.

Average monthly expenditure on transport declined from S$810 to S$780 in the five-year period.

Average monthly spending on bus and train fares decreased by an average of S$6 between 2012/13 and 2017/18, while average spending on taxi and private hire car services rose by S$10.

HOMEOWNERSHIP INCREASING

The rate of home ownership among resident households remained high, at 89 per cent in 2017/18.

Among the lowest 20 per cent households by income, 85 per cent were homeowners in 2017/18, up from 82 per cent in 2012/13.

TECH SHIFTS, ONLINE SPENDING

With the growth of e-commerce, about 60 per cent of households reported online purchases, almost double the 31 per cent who did so five years ago.

The share of online expenditure also shot up from 1.7 per cent in 2012/13 to 5 per cent in 2017/18.

Ownership of residential telephone lines, digital cameras and pay TV generally fell for households in most income groups and housing types, possibly due to the availability of substitutes such as mobile phones and online video streaming platforms.

Car ownership also declined, likely because of the increased availability of transportation alternatives, said SingStat. 

Related topics

Economic Development Board Technology economy

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