About Singapore’s Household Expenditure Survey

So the Department of Statistics conducted a household expenditure survey from 2012 to 2013, showing us that the “average Singaporean household” earns $10,500 a month and spends $4,720. They surveyed over 11,050 dwellings, and even conducted surveys, which yielded these results. Riiight.

While we mull over what the term “average” means, we’re noting that the number has risen from 2007 to 2008, when each household earned $8,110 and spent $3,810 per month. Whoopee. If this figure is true, we’re not just earning more money a month—we’re spending nearly half of it, too.

Yes, Singaporeans are making more money, but this report comes under complaints of rising HDB prices, a higher standard of living, and yes—inflation. Gone are the days when we could get ice kacang for 50-cents, or in our case, McDonald’s ice-cream. The survey paints a lovely picture, but forgot to leave that fact out—after all, the figures do look nice.

The survey shines the spotlight on the lowest to middle income households, which, apparently, also have a rising expenditure from 6.1% to 6.6% percent per year. That hardly satisfies our concerns when solid numbers are not given—how do these families get by, and are government subsidies enough?

So What About The ‘Poor?’

The survey goes on to say that households in the lowest 20% (those who, in crude terms, make the least amount of money) also experienced a “significantly faster income growth” from 2007 to 2013, as compared to the growth measured between 2002 to 2008. Again, the numbers fail to account for the rising cost of living and inflation. The survey glosses over the problems that most Singaporean households face—after all, they are being lumped together as “average households,” which may possibly be a code word for well-to-do.

We are led to believe that the “average Singaporean household” is a sustainable dual-income partnership—unless you have a cushy, high paying job, it is highly unlikely that you will be making $10,000 a month. This household is most likely advantaged with Chinese privilege, and may have two children. Despite the lovely picture this survey conjures up, and despite the statistics shown, this does nothing to address the financial concerns that Singaporeans face.

Here’s an idea—why not drop the statistics and listen? The last I checked, the Singaporean people are people, and that their concerns are real. Sure, we may be spending and earning more money, but that does not mean that we have the best way of accumulating wealth and assets and saving for a flat or a wedding. With rising expenses, it’s also harder to save, so maybe we should think about that, instead of glossing these issues over with statistics.

With reference to SingStat
Top image via SingStat