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Singapore household incomes rise in 2017, but at faster pace for top 50%

[SINGAPORE] The lower half of households in Singapore saw their incomes from work grow last year, but at a slower pace than the wealthier half.

Still, according to a Department of Statistics (DOS) report released on Thursday, income inequality changed little from 2016, as government transfers and taxes narrowed the gap between the rich and poor.

While the labour market improved last year amid an upturn in the local economy, wage growth was muted.

Inflation, which turned positive last year for the first time since 2014, also made a dent in real income growth.

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After taking inflation into account, the lowest 50 per cent of households saw income from work for each household member rise by 2.1 to 3.6 per cent last year.

In the next 40 per cent of households, that income rose at 3.7 to 4.5 per cent. The top 10 per cent of households experienced real growth in income for each household member of 2.6 per cent.

The Gini coefficient - a measure of income inequality from 0 to 1, with 0 being most equal - rose slightly to 0.459 last year, up slightly from 0.458 in 2016, which was the lowest level in a decade.

After accounting for government transfers and taxes, the Gini coefficient was 0.401, the same as 2016.

On average resident households, including those with no working person, received $4,433 for each household member from various government schemes last year.

Households in one and two-room flats received $10,245 for each household member on average, more than double the transfers received by households in bigger homes.

Over the past five years, the DOS noted, real growth in average household income from work for each household member was faster for the lowest 50 per cent.

Between 2012 and 2017, these households registered real income growth of 4.2 to 4.6 per cent a year, while the top 50 per cent of households saw their incomes rise between 2.2 and 4.2 per cent a year.

Overall, median household income from work grew 2 per cent in nominal terms from $8,846 in 2016 to $9,023 last year, or 1.5 per cent in real terms.

After accounting for household size, the median monthly household income from work per household member increased 4.5 per cent in nominal terms from $2,584 in 2016 to $2,699 last year, or 3.9 per cent in real terms.

From 2012 to 2017, median monthly household income from work rose by 15.5 per cent cumulatively in real terms, or 2.9 per cent a year.

THE STRAITS TIMES

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