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Drop at the top for work-income earners

First fall since 2008 recession; highest 10% only group to get paid less in 2013
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 06:00

[SINGAPORE] Income of top earners from employment in 2013 fell for the first time since the 2008 recession - the only group to see a drop in income last year.

Resident households in the top 10 per cent income bracket saw average monthly income slip 5.2 per cent in real terms from $11,552 per household member in 2012 to $11,198 in 2013, despite higher economic growth.

The decline was 3.1 per cent in nominal terms and came after a 9.6 per cent jump in nominal terms and 5.1 per cent hike in real terms in 2012, according to the Department of Statistics' "Key Household Income Trends 2013" report.

No official reason was given for the drop, though people in the compensation business speculate that it's partly due to employers giving a bigger raise to younger and junior staff to narrow pay gaps.

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Incomes of households headed by those who held jobs as managers fell sharply last year by 8.7 per cent in real terms to $12,047 per household member.

The last time the income of the top earners fell - by 2.6 per cent in real terms - was during the 2008 economic downturn, when all households' incomes were hit.

Except for the top earners, households in all income groups saw income rise in both nominal and real terms in 2013, with the biggest jumps seen in those in the third to sixth deciles (See table).

Incomes of the bottom 10 per cent, which fell 1.2 per cent in real terms in the previous year, increased 2.4 per cent in 2013 from an average monthly income of $440 in 2012 to $463 per household member.

Overall, the median monthly household income from employment grew from $7,570 in 2012 to $7,870 in 2013, up 4.0 per cent in nominal terms and 1.6 per cent in real terms.

The drop in income at the top bracket probably contributed to a narrowing in income gaps last year, as the Gini coefficient - a measure of income inequality - dipped from 0.478 in 2012 to 0.463. If government transfers and taxes are taken into account, the coefficient fell to 0.412 - the lowest since 2000 when the Statistics Department started compiling it.

Resident households overall got an average $3,440 per household member last year - higher than the $2,760 in 2012 - from government schemes such as the Workfare Income Supplement and Growth Dividends.

Households in HDB one- and two-room flats received $8,631 per household member - more than their annual income of $8,264 per member - in government help in 2013, up from $7,210 in 2012.

Over a longer time- frame of five years, incomes rose in all income brackets - including that of the top earners whose incomes tend to fluctuate more. Their income increased 1.0 per cent yearly in real terms during 2008-2013.

Total household income from employment went up 2 per cent per annum during this period. Measured by per household member, it rose 1.9 per cent yearly.

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