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Household income rises faster than expenditure

[SINGAPORE] Households in Singapore are earning more than they are spending, a new government survey released on Thursday has found.

The latest Household Expenditure Survey (HES) by the Department of Statistics (DOS) also found that average monthly household incomes have gone up across the board, with the bottom 20 per cent of families registering the largest gains.

This survey, the 10th in Singapore's history, is carried out every five years. For this latest report, the national statistical authority interviewed 8,575 Singaporean and permanent resident households from October 2012 to September 2013.

The results showed that the average monthly household income from all sources was S$10,503, up from S$8,105 in the previous survey five years ago.

This is an increase of 5.3 per cent per annum in nominal terms; the rise outpaced inflation, which averaged 3.1 per cent a year between 2008 and 2013.

The DOS' figures do not account for inflation.

Households in the bottom fifth enjoyed the largest income growth. Their average income grew by 6.6 per cent a year over the last five years to S$2,022, while those in the top fifth grew their incomes at a rate of just 4.7 per cent a year.

Across housing types, those in HDB flats experienced higher annual income growth (5.2 per cent) between 2007/08 and 2012/13; those living in condominiums and apartments had increases of 3.6 per cent, and those in landed homes, 4.2 per cent.

Income from employment accounted for 79 per cent of total household income from all sources. Business income contributed 11 per cent, and income from non-work sources such as rental and investments, 10 per cent.

The average amount spent by households was S$4,724 last year, compared to S$3,809 five years ago. This worked out to an annual increase of 4.4 per cent.

The DOS attributed this increase partly to households consuming better quality and higher-end products and services.

Housing, food and transport accounted for the largest shares of household expenditure across the income groups. Collectively, they made up 65 per cent of monthly household expenditure on average, up from 64 per cent in 2007/08 and 61 per cent in 2002/03.

Households here are spending more when it comes to eating out. While meals at hawker centres and food courts continued to make up the bulk of their expenses in this category, the DOS found that the share of spending in restaurants, cafes and pubs has crept up over the last decade.

The average expenditure on transport also rose, from S$700 a month in 2007/08 to S$810 in 2012/13. This came mainly from higher expenses on flights and private transport. The cost of taking public transport went up slightly over this period, from S$160 to S$170.

The survey also pointed to an improvement in standards of living in Singapore; more households now own consumer goods such as mobile phones, LCD television sets and personal computers.

The first HES was undertaken in 1956/57 and covered only the urban area in Singapore. The second survey, which was country- wide, was done in 1972/73. Since then, the HES has been carried out every five years.

The results are used for expenditure and income studies, as well as to update the weighting pattern and the basket of goods and services for the compilation of the Consumer Price Index.