After several years of work, the 2021 Singapore Minimum Income Standard (MIS) report has now been released. The team—consisting of Ng Kok Hoe, Neo Yu Wei, Ad Maulod, Stephanie Chok, Wong Yee Lok and me—ascertained how ordinary Singaporeans think about what constitutes basic needs in Singapore today and determined the household budgets necessary to meet these needs. Our first report, published in 2019, focused on households of elderly people (living alone or as couples). This new report looks at households of parents (single or partnered) living with children aged 25 or below, as well as updating the figures for elderly households.
Following the launch of the report last week, The Straits Times also carried an op-ed (paywall) which I co-wrote with Ng Kok Hoe. In it we explore the nature of the focus group discussions in more detail, highlighting the dynamics of the deliberations and how we observed groups come to consensus despite variations in their own experiences:
Over these four years, we have learnt from our participants that everyone living in Singapore today has needs for housing, food and clothing, opportunities for education, employment and work-life balance, as well as access to healthcare. Everyone needs a sense of belonging, respect, security and independence. Every person needs choices to participate in social activities, and the freedom to engage in one’s cultural and religious practices.
We have learnt from them too that they know not everyone in Singapore today is meeting these needs to the same degree. This does not lead anyone to say that any of these are therefore not needs; that only those who can afford it deserve belonging, respect, security and independence; that some children should have paid tuition suited to their needs and other children will just have to accept whatever they can get from charity.
In spending time and energy to share their experiences and insights with us, our participants have put in our hands the responsibility of putting this question on the table: If ordinary people can see and express that there are universal needs, that there is a baseline below which no one should fall, what will we do collectively to make sure all members of our society meet these basic needs?
Now that we know what a basic standard of living in Singapore should entail, the work ahead must be to ensure that everyone can achieve it.
Find out more about MIS research and the report by visiting the MIS website.