Welfare and poverty
Welfare Index (HDI) calculations for 2014 showed that
Singapore was then ranked 9 out of 188 countries and
territories in the world, but welfare is more unevenly
distributed than in all other highly developed countries. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of SGP and acronym for Singapore.
In most respects, statistics are not available for all
residents, but only for those who are citizens or immigrants
with a permanent residence permit. They make up nearly 4
million people and are referred to here as Singaporeans. In
addition, the country lives more than one and a half million
immigrants without a permanent residence permit. Of these,
the vast majority are guest workers and a large majority of
them are low-skilled and aged 20-45.
Benefits and security differ significantly between
Singaporeans and other residents. Guest workers have
significantly lower wages, not the same access to health
care and poorer living conditions. But it is not possible to
get a clear picture of the conditions for the whole of the
latter heterogeneous category.
Just over 91 percent of Singaporean households own their
accommodation, which for the vast majority means an
apartment in a high-rise building. Apartments are very
expensive due to the lack of land, and all permanent
residents have compulsory, individual savings for purchases
and ongoing housing expenses.
Economically, Singapore differs from the corresponding
high-income countries by allocating a very small proportion
of the state budget to health care and education. Individual
insurance is important and entails compulsory savings for
future household expenses. Therefore, household saving is
exceptionally high in Singapore. Instead, income tax for
Singaporeans is among the lowest in the world.
Guest workers pay significantly higher taxes but, on the
other hand, are not included in the compulsory savings
system. The income and wealth differences among Singaporeans
are large, and to a small extent the tax system is used to
reduce these differences.
The guiding principle is that no services should be free
and that the residents should save in order to be able to
pay their costs in society themselves. All Singaporeans are
therefore covered by a system of individual savings accounts
with three sub-accounts: for pension, health care and
housing savings, including education. To these, employees
and employers make monthly payments, and from this funds are
collected for expenses that in this respect affect the
family members and the most closely related relatives who do
not have income.
On average, one third of the salary goes into an employee
Singaporean's savings account. Since the vast majority own
their home, the average wealth is also higher than in most
corresponding countries. State rules exist for withdrawals
on savings accounts and they are related to income and
The traditional principle of the individual's
responsibility for family and close relatives lives, while
in practice this is made more difficult by new conditions
such as increasing life expectancy and ever-lower birth.
During the 2010s, small changes were made to the rules to
give some flexibility in the savings system. The state is
now allocating more funds for social purposes, mainly for
the growing group of chronically ill elderly people to have
a decent life.
Labor market, trade unions and pensions
Of Singaporeans of working age, just over three-quarters
of men and three-fifths of women work. During the first half
of the 2010 unemployment rate was 2 percent.
The statutory retirement age is 62 years, but in recent
years the state has urged employers to reinstate
Singaporeans who want and can work up to age 67. It is
proposed that from 2017 be a requirement on employers. The
reason for this is mainly the lack of educated labor, but
also increasing life expectancy and thus increasing costs
for the retired.
The pension consists of withdrawals from the individual
pension account for a maximum of 20 years. There are
suggestions to extend the withdrawal period to a lifetime.
There is also a supplementary pension account for voluntary
deposits and with compulsory deposits from the age of 55.
There is no statutory minimum wage, as the principle is
that the individual salary should be negotiated between
employees and employers and is determined by the supply and
demand for labor (vocational skills, education and
experience). However, collective agreements are allowed, as
are strikes, but so far these have been unusual. Those who
organize demonstrations and strikes can be prosecuted for a
variety of reasons. The trade union movement cooperates very
closely with the government and employers. There is no
unemployment insurance. The Singaporean who becomes
unemployed is expected to live on savings and with the help
of relatives. Homelessness is very rare.
For foreign guest workers, working conditions can have
major shortcomings, especially for construction workers and
especially for women employed by households. Every fifth
Singaporean household has a foreign home help, and for them
the rule does not apply to the employer's responsibility for
the guest worker's accommodation, diet and health and the
requirement for occupational injury insurance. Only in 2009
did household employees receive a statutory day off during
the week. Many have substandard housing and during pregnancy
they are dismissed. Also, low-skilled guest workers may not
have accompanying family members.
Child allowance and childcare
Many years of regular child support are missing. In order
to increase the tendency of Singaporeans to have children,
in 2002 a child bonus, a grant paid three times during the
child's first year, was introduced for parents to use
freely. In addition, they must deposit money themselves into
the child's savings account, and there is now also a small
government contribution for a number of years. The account
should be used for childcare, the purchase of glasses and
the like. In addition, parents can apply for a tax
reduction. Paid parental leave covers four months for the
mother and one week for the father. In addition, six days a
year for child care.
Health insurance and health care
The average life expectancy in Singapore in 2015 was 83
years (one year longer than in Sweden), which is among the
highest in the world. In the same year, infant mortality was
2 per cent (lower than in Sweden) and mortality in
connection with pregnancy and childbirth was also low, only
6 per 100,000 births. Abortions are legal for the first 24
weeks for those who have lived in the country for at least
In 2015, there were 23 doctors per 10,000 Singaporeans.
16 large, state-subsidized hospitals account for 80 percent
of specialized health care. At the ten private hospitals,
care is much more expensive. In primary care, private
doctors and health centers are responsible for most of the
The individual health insurance account can be used by
the whole family and close relatives for care in state
hospitals and for medicines. A specially subsidized account
can be used for sudden, catastrophic costs, for some
long-term care and for patients who lack funds. Private
health care is available for those who have private
insurance and for foreign patients. Completely mediocre
patients are often taken care of by voluntary organizations
that receive some state support. Aging parents who are not
taken care of by their adult children have a legal right to
In principle, men and women have the same statutory
rights, but in practice there are considerable differences.
For example, Muslim men may have several wives and
unilaterally decide on divorce.
Singaporean women consistently have significantly lower
wages than men for similar work. Women's political influence
has increased since the beginning of the 1990s, but they are
still under-represented. In 2015, the proportion of women in
Parliament was 23 per cent and among the 20 ministers there
was only one woman, the Minister of Culture.
Crime and punishment
Penalties are generally high and penalties are not
uncommon for men. The death penalty is punished and enforced
by hanging. Since 2012, it has been possible to convert the
death penalty into a life sentence under certain
circumstances. The Internal Security Act permits detention
without trial and has been applied to persons suspected of
planning terrorist attacks in the country.
Trafficking in women from other parts of Asia occurs. The
scope is unclear but Singapore has a national action plan
against human trafficking.
Prostitution is not prohibited but must not occur in
public places and prostitutes must wear health certificates.
Rape in marriage is not criminal. It is, on the other hand,
sexual acts between men.