Low-income Families

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Definitions and Scope

The term "low-income" is vague, due to there being a great degree of subjectivity regarding what would constitute a "low income". In Singapore, a general metric to gauge if a person/family falls into the "low income" category would be if said person/family had a monthly household income of $1,900 and below or a per capita income of $650 and below.

Potential Challenges Faced

In an extremely competitive (almost ruthless) capitalistic society such as Singapore, there are a myriad of challenges which would be faced by members of the community which fall into this category.

  • Difficulties securing healthcare
  • Children would be more likely to face difficulties in school
  • An inability to meet periodic payments (rent, school fees etc)

And these just scratch the tip of the iceberg. As noted, the high cost of living make it very difficult for members of the community falling into this category to get by without additional sources of financial aid.

Possible Solutions

At the outset, it is important to note that many of these issues are systemic and as such are not easily addressed. Poverty is an issue which plagues every society - the only question is of extent.

First, the most effective method would be financial aid. This would allow said members of the community which fall into the "low income" category to be able to deal with their day to day bills (immediate concerns).

Second, the next method would be education. Teaching and empowering youth with the relevant skills would allow to them to be employable in a rapidly changing economy so as to ensure financial sustainability.




Target Population: Low-income Families

[identify target group and define who is included or excluded in this category: you want to get it just right: not too broad that it includes those you may not want to include, and not too narrow that it excludes those you want to help. You might be too exclusive: e.g. defining ‘vulnerable’ seniors as ‘low-income’, but you may want to include those without family support. Therefore, you may want to define vulnerable as ‘poor and/or with low family support’. You might be too inclusive: e.g. ‘latchkey kids’ may include those who have working parents, or those with serious behavioural problems.]

Singapore has no official measurement of what constitutes poverty. Based on the Minimum Household Expenditure, or actual expenditure for a subsistence budget, multiplied by 1.25, we identified the poverty line to be in the range of gross income of $1,500 to $1,700 per household per month (Asher, G. A., & Nandy, A. (2008). Singapore’s Policy Responses to Ageing, Inequality and Poverty: An assessment. Social Security Association International Social Security Review, 61(1), 41-60).

Mendaki Research report 2015 - Living on a tight budget in Singapore. Qualitative study of 25 malay-Muslim households by Caroline Brassad mendaki Study

Client Segments

[Eg. For at risk youth, some could have behavioural problems and be beyond parental control. Others could merely be disengaged and bored in school. Because it seems like different engagement strategies can be customized to these sub-types, it may make sense to segmentize.]

Size of the Problem

[Size of the universe (size of total potential need/demand for services)]

[Size of expressed need (those receiving services and on waitlist)]

In 2015, the number of young Singaporeans, below 35, with a monthly household income of $1,900 or less, or a per capita income of under $650 was 29,511 (Ministry of Social and Family Development, 2016). As of June 2016, 41,500 people aged between 15 and 34 earned under $1,000 per month (Ministry of Manpower, 2016).

23 per cent of persons over 65 in the formal workforce were also found to be earning less than $1,000 a month (Ministry of Manpower, 2016). Among the working elderly, the poverty rate more than tripled from 13 per cent in 1995, to 28 per cent in 2005, to 41 per cent in 2011 (Ng, K.H. (forthcoming). Incomes and poverty during old age in Singapore. In Report on ageing in Singapore. Singapore: Tsao Foundation.). It was estimated that 6 in 10 elderly people in Singapore in 2011 were poor (Cunico, Lim & Han, 2017).

Desired impact for target group

[If we have no conception of what counts as a ‘good death’, ‘social inclusion’, ‘engaged youth’ , then it would not be possible to determine whether our policies and services are performing well]

The government aims to addressing income disparity and social stratification through these areas (Ministry of Social and Family Development)

  1. Education as a social enabler;
  2. Support to keep Singaporeans employable and uplift wages for the lower-income and broad middle;
  3. Extensive subsidies for healthcare and housing;
  4. Support for retirement needs; and
  5. Social and community assistance for low-income and vulnerable groups.

Needs of [insert client type]

Social stratification and income disparity should be a key concern for broader society, because underlying this concern are more fundamental issues such as opportunity, social mobility, dignity, social cohesion, sense of fairness, personal sense of well-being, and individual and shared identity (Ministry of Social and Family Development)

First, as the economy matures, one’s family resources or disadvantages may be passed on and amplified in the next generation, which will affect social mobility. There is a need for accessible, affordable, and quality education. In addition, there might be other reasons for non-participation (eg parents are working late into the night) and there is a need to address such reasons to facilitate enrolment (Ministry of Social and Family Development).

Second, with a volatile global environment and the emergence of new technologies, the sense of economic insecurity among Singaporeans may increase. Lower-wage workers require help raising their incomes and staying employed. (Ministry of Social and Family Development).

Third, low-income and vulnerable families often have complex needs and require coordinated help from multiple agencies. There is a need for collaboration between government and community agencies to enhance social service delivery and strengthen social service network of support. (Ministry of Social and Family Development)

Need for Financial Stability

[Needs should not be identified in term of its specific solutions—eg youths need mentoring, seniors need hospice care, people with disabilities need day care (these are specific solutions we can be in the next column)—Instead, they should be defined in more ‘perennial terms’ because the solutions can change but the needs remain; I don’t need a CD player, or even an mp3 player, I need ‘portable music’ and currently the best solution seems to be Spotify]

[Also indicate the size of this specific need & projected demand were data is available]

Existing Resources

[e.g. existing services or programmes both private or public; relevant policies and legislation]


Workfare Income Supplement Scheme

Adapt and Grow initiative


Workfare Training Support

Gaps and Their Causes

[Some gaps could be due to 1) capacity of solution to meet size & projected demand, 2) quality of solution (effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, scalability etc.), 3) accessibility (geographical, cost to client)]

Possible Solutions

[Based on the specific gaps and reasons for those gaps, what might be solutions that can help? Insert existing but untapped resources, or new ideas that have not been considered yet]

Need for Education

Existing Resources

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Need for [ insert description ]

Existing Resources

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Need for [ insert description ]

Existing Resources

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Need for [ insert description ]

Existing Resources

Gaps and Their Causes

Possible Solutions

Resource Directory

Mainly I Love Kids (MILK)


Catholic Welfare Services


Society of St Vincent de Paul