We’ve all heard our parents and/or grandparents lament over how expensive things have gotten in Singapore over the years. The main culprit for this is the high rate of inflation in Singapore since our independence.
Even if we try to remain frugal in Singapore, we cannot go without daily necessities. The cost of daily necessities, like luxury goods and services, increases in tandem with the inflation rate in Singapore. The Singapore Department of Statistics (SingStats) keeps a detailed calculation for price changes in goods and services that are important aspects of life in Singapore.
These include food; clothing & footwear; housing & utilities; household durables and services; health care; transport; communication; recreation & culture; education; and miscellaneous goods and services. Without within these categories, there are sub-categories that let’s us understand how prices have changed over the years.
We use these statistics to measure just how much the prices of every day necessities have increased in the past 20 years.
# 1 Food
Food is something we simply cannot go without. According to the Singapore Department of Statistics, the price of food has increased by close to 44.9% since 1997. This means that in typical cases, any food or food related service that used to cost $1.00 in 1997, will cost close to $1.45 today.
Within the food category, we can also look at how prices have changed for individual food categories such as bread and cereal; meat; fish and seafood; or fruits. We can even look at how the prices of fast food and hawker food have increased in the past 20 years!
Interestingly, within the food category, prices of Meat has increased by close to 78.9% and prices of Milk, Cheese & Eggs have increased by 64.3%. Meanwhile, prices of Non-alcoholic beverages have increased 32.2% and prices of Sugar, Preserves & Confectionery has increased 35.2%.
This disparity shows that products that are easily packaged have risen by a far lower amount compared to fresh products.
We can even see the price changes between Restaurant Food prices (which increased by 53.0%), Fast Food prices (which increased by 36.9%) and Hawker Food (including Food Courts) prices (which increased by 38.6%).
This tells us that fast food prices have increased by the lowest amount of the three categories. Some reason for this could be because of slower wage rises in the industry, more efficient processes in the industry, more competition in the industry or a more likely scenario is a combination of all three reasons.
# 2 Clothing & Footwear
Clothing and footwear segment crept up only 3.8% in the last 20 years. This is a very interesting phenomenon, considering the prices of almost every other segment went up in double digits.
A likely reason for this could be the advent of e-commerce and cheaply sourced products from neighbouring countries.
# 3 Housing & Utilities
Housing and utilities increased nearly 42.5% since 1997. This is evident in the disparity between housing prices in 1997 compared to today, as well as utilities bills in 1997 compared to today.
Strictly speaking, accommodation prices increased 35.3% since 1997, while fuel and utilities prices has spiked close to 61.4% since 1997.
# 4 Household Durables And Services
Household durables and services has increased over 17.0% since 1997. The main reason for this could be that products and services in this category are easily sources from cheaper neighbouring countries or can be bought via e-commerce.
# 5 Health Care
Health care is a topic that every Singaporean is, and rightly so, concerned about. Over the past 20 years, average health care prices has soared 62.8%. This is second only to the amount Education prices has soared by.
Within the sub-category, medical products, Appliances & Equipment has increased by just 30.6%, while Medical & Dental Treatments has soared over 77.7%.
Again, this shows that anything that can be pre-packaged or sourced from cheaper neighbouring countries has experienced milder price inflation that goods and services that cannot.
# 6 Transport
Public road transport prices has increased close to 34.1% since 1997. One main reason for its decline in recent times could be because the government has a large say in increases in public transport prices, the establishment of the Public Transport Council (PTC) and the fact that oil prices have come down substantially since its highs in mid-2008.
Private road transport has actually gone up by less, or 19.4%, since 1997. This could be due to lower oil prices as well as lower demand as a result of a more efficient public transportation network.
# 7 Communication
Communication is the only category on this list that has actually experienced deflation since 1997. This is truly extraordinary given that everything else has mostly soared in prices.
The main reasons could be overlap in internet technologies and social media, such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype, taking over many communication functions. Another reason could be that consumers have more access to free content online.
# 8 Recreation & Culture
Inflation in recreation and culture prices rose by 10.0%.
Within the category, recreation and entertainment prices actually decreased by 12.5%. Again, this could be because of the amount of increase in amount of free entertainment available both online and offline in the last 20 years.
Newspapers, books and stationery prices rose by 37.1%, while holiday expenses rose 29.6%.
# 9 Education
Inflation in education prices was the highest in the past 20 years, increasing nearly 93.9%. This was mostly attributable to tuition and other fees, which close to 95.8%, while school textbooks and related study guides rose 51.2%.
# 10 Miscellaneous Goods and Services
This category includes personal care (which increased 11.9%), alcoholic drinks and tobacco (which increased 128.8%), personal effect (which increased 2.5%) and other miscellaneous expenditure (which wasn’t tracked until 2014).
Not surprisingly, alcoholic drinks and tobacco, which has been slapped with increased taxes over the years, soared by 128.8%. The other sub-categories increased by less than the average price inflation in the last 20 years.
Inflation In The Past 20 Years
On average, the inflation in the prices of all tracked goods and services in the past 20 years is close to 34.5%. This means that anything you could buy with $1.00 in 1997 is worth approximately $1.35 today.
|No.||Category||Price In 1997||Approximate Price In 2017||Change|
|2||Clothing & Footwear||$1||$1.05||3.8%|
|3||Housing & Utilities||$1||$1.43||42.5%|
|4||Household Durables And Services||$1||$1.20||17.0%|
|8||Recreation & Culture||$1||$1.10||10.0%|
|10||Miscellaneous Goods And Services||$1||$1.45||44.0%|
|12||MAS Core Inflation Measure||$1||$1.35||35.0%|
Health care and education, two types of expenditure that we hold close to our hearts as we try to afford the best for our loved ones has also soared by the most. This could be a function of Singaporeans’ willingness to spend more of their wage increments over the years on these categories.
Prices of goods and services in categories that have been impacted by the internet, including e-commerce, have increased by the lowest amounts.
DollarsAndSense.sg aims to provide interesting, bite-sized financial articles that are relevant to all Singaporeans. Subscribe to our free e-newsletter to receive exclusive content not available anywhere else. Also follow us on Instagram to get your dose of finance knowledge visually.