Compared to our regional peers and even global counterparts, Singapore is typically seen as a rich country. The main statistics cited in these comparison studies tend to be GDP per capita – defined as the gross domestic output per person.
In 2021, the Department of Statistics Singapore reported our GDP per capita to be $97,798. Breaking this down simplistically, our GDP per capita translates into a monthly output of nearly $8,149 per month per person in Singapore. This includes those too old or young to work or those not working, so the actual output per working person may be higher.
However, we don’t expect to earn this amount.
What Is The Average Monthly Household Income In Singapore In 2021?
According to the Department of Statistics Singapore, the average monthly household income from work is $12,276. While this may seem high, we should not get our hopes up or feel down if we aren’t achieving this figure yet.
Firstly, by its definition, 50% of Singapore households would be earning less than the average, while another 50% would be earning more than the average. This figure is also skewed by very high earners – and the median monthly household income from work is $9,520.
Secondly, the average monthly household income differs quite greatly between families who live in HDB flats and those who live in private properties.
|Average Monthly Household Income by Type of Dwelling in 2021($)|
|1- & 2-Room HDB Flat||$3,174|
|3-Room HDB Flat||$6,894|
|4-Room HDB Flat||$9,771|
|5-Room & Executive HDB Flat||$13,136|
|Condominiums and Other Apartments||$19,935|
Source: Department of Statistics Singapore
With more than 80% of people in Singapore living in HDB flats, the household income for HDB flats may be most relevant for many of us. Naturally, those who live in bigger HDB flats also tend to earn a larger household income.
Of course, average household income also corresponds to the number of persons living in our home. The more working household members, the greater our household income. If we have five household members (for example, father, mother, and three adult children) in a condominium, all working and earning $4,000 each, we would have a household income of over $20,000. However, this doesn’t mean we are richer or better off than a single person who bought their own 4-room flat and earns $9,000 a month.
What we should pay closer attention to is the monthly household income per household member.
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How Do You Stand Against Other Households In Singapore?
To understand where we stand is to look at which decile we fall into.
|Average Monthly Household Income per Household Member|
|Quintiles||Average Monthly Household Income|
|1st – 10th||$596|
|11th – 20th||$1,224|
|21st – 30th||$1,712|
|31st – 40th||$2,211|
|41st – 50th||$2,749|
|51st – 60th||$3,347|
|61st – 70th||$4,111|
|71st – 80th||$5,144|
|81st – 90th||$6,944|
|91st – 100th||$13,626|
The lowest 10% of households saw household members earning just $596 per month. As we pointed out earlier, the highest earners also skew the statistics, as the top 10% of income earners have pay packets worth nearly double the next highest 10% of income earners ($13,626 v $6,944).
How Much Did Our Average Monthly Household Income Grow?
It’s also good to see if there has been positive wage growth. Overall, the average household income in 2021 was $12,276, which is marginally higher compared to 2020.
However, looking at the table, while most households saw a fall in their income, the smallest households actually saw an increase in their income.
|Average Monthly Household Income From Work by Type of Dwelling ($)|
|2020||2021||Change (per annum)|
|1- & 2-Room HDB Flat||$2,997||$3,174||5.9%|
|3-Room HDB Flat||$6,442||$6,894||7.0%|
|4-Room HDB Flat||$9,414||$9,771||3.8%|
|5-Room & Executive HDB Flat||$12,723||$13,136||3.2%|
|Condominiums and Other Apartments||$20,732||$19,935||-3.8%|
While the average monthly household income from work did not increase by much, it is heartening to see that the gains came from lower income households. In fact, all HDB households saw positive income growth in 2021. On the other hand, private property owners saw sharp drops in their average monthly household income.
While this is interesting, we should also look at longer time frames to determine if we are headed in the right direction.
|Average Monthly Household Income From Work by Type of Dwelling ($)|
|1- & 2-Room HDB Flat||$1,714||$2,105||$3,174|
|3-Room HDB Flat||$3,887||$5,202||7$6,894|
|4-Room HDB Flat||$4,942||$7,222||$9,771|
|5-Room & Executive HDB Flat||$7,342||$10,160||$13,136|
|Condominiums and Other Apartments||$13,444||$18,025||$19,935|
As expected, all households have benefited from decent income growth in the past 10- and 20-year periods. Those living in 1- & 2-Room HDB Flats have seen their income rise 85.2% since 2001 and 50.8% since 2011. In contrast, the top income earners have only seen their income go up by 66.5% and 5.8% in the same time frame.
Of course, the highest income earners are already starting off from a very high base, and their income growth far outpaces others in actual dollar terms.
Nevertheless, seeing the lower income earners outpace the top income earners in percentage terms is still a step in the right direction.
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How Come Our Salaries From Work May Not Match Up?
If we simply look at the headline $12,276 figure that the average households in Singapore earn, we may have an unrealistic point of view. For starters, we are neglecting a likely significant source of income for wealthier households – income not from work but from business and investments.
As mentioned, we also need to be mindful of the number of working persons in our households. If we have more people working, we may look like we’re better off than the average even when it may not be the case at all. Similarly, if we have only a single income earner in a smaller household, we may actually be better off than the average. Our own circumstances are also a function of our choices (whether one spouse wants to be a stay-home parent) as well as circumstance.
Another measure that we can compare ourselves to is the median income reported by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Singapore’s median income in 2021 was $4,680.
For many of us, there will typically be two working adults (ourselves and our spouse) in our households. In fact, the average number of working household members in resident employed households in 2020 was 1.93 – which points to a married couple – with just a fraction deciding that one spouse not work. The average household size among resident employed households in 2020 was 3.32 – which can also be read as having about 1 to 2 dependants (either children or elderly parents).
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This article was originally published on 7 October 2020 and updated to reflect the latest information.
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