1. COVID-19 impact sees household income fall in 2020, but overall rise in past 5 years
A paper released by the Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS) on Monday, 8 February, revealed that median household incomes in Singapore fell last year as the economy shrank, but had increased over the past five years.
The paper’s analysis was based on resident households with at least one working person, which constituted 86.7 per cent of all resident households in 2020.
Of these households, the median household income from work fell by 2.5 per cent from S$9,425 in 2019, to S$9,189 in 2020. After taking inflation into account, it was a 2.4 per cent drop, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the longer term, however, there was a cumulative increase of 5.2 per cent (or 1 per cent annum in real terms) since 2015, when the median monthly household income was S$8,666.
Figures for the median monthly household income from work per household member was also provided, with a recorded fall of 1.3 per cent (1.2 per cent after adjusting for inflation) from S$2,925 in 2019 to S$2,886 in 2020. Similarly, the number had grown over the past five years by 14.6 per cent, or 2.8 per annum in real terms.
Households belonging to different income groups also experienced an unequal drop in income. Those in the 1st to 60th percentile recorded a fall of between S$37 and S$49 in average household income per member, whereas those in the 61st to 100th percentile had their income fall between S$96 and S$337.
After adjusting for inflation, households in the top 90 per cent income groups recorded real income declines of 1.4 to 3.2 per cent, while those in the bottom 10 per cent declined 6.1 per cent.
Much like the overall trends, their incomes all grew in the five years from 2015 to 2020, with increases ranging from 0.6 to 2.9 per cent a year.
Despite the unequal fall in income across income groups, the income divide as measured by the Gini coefficient was the lowest in two decades due to government transfers, especially for households staying in smaller HDB flats.
In 2020, Singapore’s Gini coefficient was 0.452, unchanged from 2019. However, this fell to 0.375 after government transfers and taxes. In 2019, the Gini coefficient had been 0.398 after transfers, a record low at the time.
The full Key Household Income Trends 2020 report can be accessed at www.singstat.gov.sg.
2. Over 110,000 locals hired under Jobs Growth Incentive scheme in October and September 2020
In September and October 2020, more than 110,000 new local hires were made under the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) Scheme. Of these new hires, about half of them were aged 40 and above, and about 26,000 employers had participated in the hiring.
The JGI scheme was launched in August 2020 to encourage firms to hire locals in response to the impacts of the pandemic. S$1 billion was invested into the programme, with the Government using these funds to co-pay between 25 and 50 per cent of the first S$5,000 of a local hire’s gross monthly wages for 12 months.
Approximately 14,000 employers qualified for payouts under the scheme in September 2020, with about 80 per cent maintaining or expanding their local hiring in October. In October 2020 alone, more than 11,000 new employers became eligible for the scheme.
While a majority of eligible employers hired one to two local workers, about 20 per cent hired five local workers or more. Sectors with the most hires under the scheme included food services, wholesale trade, and professional services.
Speaking after a visit to employment agency SearchAsia Consulting, Minister of Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo urged employers to continue reviewing their recruitment practices if they were having troubles hiring, and to approach employment agencies if they require assistance.
3. MOH confirms that SEAS is not endorsed by hospitals
In a press release on Monday, 8 February, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that it had filed a police report against the Singapore Emergency Ambulance Services (SEAS), for misrepresentation of several private and public hospitals.
MOH said that it received word that the SEAS’ phone number was connected to search engine results for the several medical institutions, including Tan Tock Seng Hospital Ambulance Service Bay, Changi General Hospital Ambulance Service Bay, Singapore General Hospital Ambulance Service Bay, and more.
MOH stressed that “SEAS is not endorsed or provided by the hospitals set out in the list above, and has no authorisation to operate any ‘ambulance service bays’ or ‘ambulance bays’ on their behalf” and that it would consider broaching the case to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore.
4. Public governance risks due to COVID-19 surfaced by parliamentary committee
A report released by the Public Accounts Committee on Monday, 8 February, has highlighted several public governance risks brought about by COVID-19. These include security vulnerabilities arising from rapid digital advancement, as well as the viability of Changi Airport Terminal 5.
A weakened economy and reduced tax revenue have also resulted in new risks, due to limitations in the Government’s economic assets and labour force.
The committee includes six People’s Action Party members and Workers’ Party MP for Sengkang GRC Mr Louis Chua, and is chaired by Ms Foo Mee Har, Member of Parliament for West Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
New grant schemes and spending on community isolation and quarantine facilities were among the recommendations by the committee, who called for the “need to ensure proper governance, control and accountability over Covid-19 expenditure, while balancing policy and operational considerations.”
The committee also raised concerns about the viability of large-scale projects such as Changi Airport Terminal 5, as “original projections may have changed significantly” due to the impact of COVID-19.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) noted that considerable financial and manpower constraints would be faced by the Government in the course of the pandemic. It also said that it would make modifications that it deemed were appropriate, and would collaborate with other government agencies for the redistribution of resources.
When asked about the risks of accelerating Singapore’s digital advancement, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) raised ten different risks, including cyber-security threats and risks to technological development.
The probability of structural unemployment was also identified as an emerging risk by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), with the report stating that the MOM was making preparations to “re-think existing strategies to strengthen its support for vulnerable segments such as low-wage workers”.
In reference to the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO)’s 2020 report, the committee also asked various government ministries to comment on measures put in place to tackle lapses that surfaced in various ministries and statutory boards. These lapses included many complications from grants administered by Workforce Singapore, which led to the possibility of fraudulent claims by companies and individuals, as well as other issues.
In response, MOM mentioned that proper measures and guidelines had been rolled out to deter fraud, and noted that there was still room for improvement.