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 wealth.
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 percent (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 four months.
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 operations.
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 sue them.
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 percent 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.