In a study done by researchers from NUS’ Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, it was found that elderly Singaporeans above 65 required S$1,379 each month to meet their basic needs. With focus group discussions involving 103 participants aged 55 and above from all walks of life, the survey led by Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe centered on basic standards of living, and its findings were revealed in a media release yesterday.
Apart from the aforementioned figure for single elderly Singaporeans, other household monthly budgets determined included S$2,351 for couples and S$1,721 for individuals between 55 and 64 years old.
Using a method called Minimum Income Standards, which has been employed in the UK, Japan, and France, the study called for participants to come up with items and services commonly regarded, and justified, as a basic need.
This list included safe and comfortable homes, use of mobile phones, inexpensive restaurant meals on occasion, and annual holidays around the region priced at about S$500. Air-conditioning and cars were not considered as part of the index, which was then used to calculate household budgets based on prices at stores like NTUC FairPrice. Experts were also consulted for food and healthcare expenses.
Beyond housing, food, and clothing, the basic standard of living included education and employment opportunities, work-life balance, and healthcare. It was also deemed important to have security, independence, respect, and a sense of belonging.
“To tackle inequality, it is critical to establish an agreed floor below which no one should fall,” said research team member, Associate Professor Teo You Yenn from the School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The researchers said the general outcome of the household budgets was similar to retired households’ actual expenditure patterns. But the budgets were bigger on recreation and culture, not so much healthcare, as major illnesses were not taken into account.
It was noted that some of the aging population in Singapore would have to boost their incomes with help from family members and their savings in order to retire with their desired basic standard of living. Only 55 percent of those turning 55 had sufficient savings in their Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts to meet the Basic Retirement Sum in 2013, which meant that the rest would not get the basic annuity of less than $800 each month.
“This study reveals that ordinary members of society can come to a consensus about a basic standard of living in light of norms and experiences in contemporary Singapore,” said Dr Ng. “Such income standards can help by translating societal values and real experiences into unambiguous and substantive benchmarks that policy can aim for.”