Children from Low Income Families

From Social Collaborative Singapore
Revision as of 07:02, 28 October 2021 by E0560275 (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

General Guidelines

  • Cite credible sources (books, websites, reports, newspapers) where possible using the 'Cite' function once you click 'Edit'
  • You can also hyperlink to websites where relevant.
  • The table of contents on the right reflects headers that you can assign while editing. For example, clicking 'Definitions and Scope' below while in Edit mode shows that it is a Heading, while 'Target Population' is a Sub-heading 1.
    • Every page should have the Headings and sub-headings (see below) by default
    • Feel free to add more Headings and sub-headings where helpful.
  • See the pages on Disability or End of Life for examples of how pages should more or less look like

Definitions and Scope

Children from Low Income Families  

Increasing Inequality

A static measure of inequality is the Gini coefficient, which has a value ranging from zero to one. When the income distribution is more unequal, the Gini coefficient has a larger value[1]

Country Before Taxes and Transfers After Taxes and Transfers Differences
Singapore 0.464 0.412 0.052
United States 0.486 0.345 0.141
United Kingdom 0.456 0.345 0.111
Australia 0.468 0.336 0.132
Japan 0.462 0.329 0.133
Germany 0.504 0.295 0.209

A comparison of Gini Coefficients in 2015, from

Income Inequality in Singapore

  • Steady increase in Gini Coefficient throughout its development history.
  • In 2017, the Gini Coefficient stood at 0.459 (before taking into account Government transfers and taxes) – little changed from 2016’s 0.458 which was the lowest in a decade.
  • 2 highest peaks in the past decade were 0.482 and 0.478 in 2007 and 2012[1]
  • 73 per cent of Singapore’s wealth is owned by the wealthiest 20 per cent.[2]

A high level of income inequality could have implications for social and intergenerational mobility when accessibility to resources for the betterment of self and family in terms of work and education becomes stratified according to social and economic status. This leads inequality becoming sticky or entrenched where there are limited opportunities for one to move oneself or one's children from a lower socioeconomic rung to a higher one. Income growth has indeed slowed for less well-off families in Singapore[2]. There is also an increasing number young Singaporeans in need and relying on government handouts.[3]Inequality also results in divisions across social classes which again has the potential effect of cementing stratification. A study of social capital in Singapore reveals that there was strong evidence for socialisation to occur along class-based lines, reflecting increasingly clear social divide.[4]

Poverty, Absolute Poverty and Relative Poverty

Absolute Poverty Relative Poverty
  • Income or consumption below a minimum level required for basic needs
  • Also known as the poverty line
  • Line is then consolidated into a measure of poverty for the entire society.[1]
  • No official definition of what absolute poverty is in Singapore i.e. Singapore has yet to establish an official poverty line.
  • Closely linked to inequality
  • Relative poverty line could also be an indicator of inequality as it is 'based on the notion that an individual’s perception of poverty depends upon his/ her relative position in the surrounding environment.'
  • Poverty in this instance is dependent on the changes in the general living standard.[1]
  • An upward trend of living standards would therefore lead to rising relative poverty levels.

Past studies have given the following estimates of absolute and relative poverty in Singapore to be the following:

Source Reference Year Measurement Method Poverty Estimate
Absolute Poverty Estimates
Yeoh Lam Keong, mimeo (2013) 2011 Using household income of S$1,250(2012 ahebn estimate)

to S$1,500 per month as a poverty line. estimated number of working poor + unemployed poor + retired poor households based on data from the department of statistics (dos) for 2011.

10–12 per cent or 110,000–140,000 singapore resident households
Jacqueline loh,

Social Space

“bottom fifth in singapore” (2011)

2008 Using S$1,500 as a poverty line (the qualifying level for

many comcare schemes in 2011) and looking at the income distribution across quintiles for all households, not only “employed households.” this data is only available every five years from the household expenditure survey (hes).

12–14 per cent or 130,000–150,000 singapore resident households
Below Social Inclusion Levels Estimates
The Straits Times, “Widening Wage gap, does it matter?” (2010) 2008 Reports that a family of four would need S$2,500–S$3,000 per month to reach the social inclusion level of income. (estimated by lcsi from 2007/2008 household expenditure survey.) 23–26 per cent or 250,000–280,000 singapore resident households with monthly incomes below s$3,000
Relative Poverty Estimates
Lien centre analysis based on the HES 2007/08 2008 Using 50 per cent of median household income amongst resident households, relative poverty line is at S$2,500. 20–22 per cent of all households
Asher & nandy, “Singapore’s policy response to ageing, inequality & poverty” (2008) 2006 Measuring relative poverty through estimation of workers that are eligible for the Workfare income supplement (Wis) when it was first introduced in 2007. eligibility criteria included having a monthly salary of less than S$1,500. 26 per cent or about one out of four workers would have been potential beneficiaries of the WIS.

Taken from Measuring Poverty in Singapore: Frameworks for Consideration

Ministry of Education Financial Aid Requirements

As of 2021, the income criterion is a gross household income of <=$2750 OR a per capital income of <=$690.

MOE Financial Assistance Scheme Benefits 2021[5]
Items Academic Level
Primary Secondary Pre-U
School Fees NA Full Waiver ($5/mo) Full Waiver ($6/mo)
Standard Miscellaneous Fees Full Waiver ($6.50/mo) Full Waiver ($10/mo) Full Waiver ($13.50/mo)
Textbooks Free NA
School Attire Free NA
Transport Subsidy Students taking school bus: 60% of school bus fares

Students taking public transport: $15 transport credit/mo

Student taking public transport: $15 transport credit/mo
School Meals $2/meal subsidy, for 7 meals/school week $2.90/meal subsidy, for 10 meals/school week NA
Bursary NA $1000

In 2018, MOE raised the income eligibility for MOE FAS from Gross Household Income of $2500 or Per Capita Income of $625, to $2750 and $690 respectively. A few MOE FAS benefits have been revised, for example, Transport Subsidy has been revised from $180 credit/year to $15 credit/month.

There is no limit on the number of students receiving MOE FAS each year. As of 2018, about 51000 Singapore students are receiving benefits from MOE FAS. In addition, the Edusave Merit Bursary is given to students from lower and middle income families who have performed well and meet the income criteria.[6]

Families on ComCare assistance increases, taken from the Straits Times

The impacts of income inequality and relative poverty on children from low income families are manifold:

Impact Segment Aspects of Impact
Education and Learning
  • Though Primary education is largely free for all Singapore citizens in schools under the purview of the Ministry of Education, the education landscape is extremely competitive and dominated by private tuition and enrichment.
  • Meanwhile there is no state standardised curriculum in the Early Childhood Education in Singapore and access to quality early childhood education is extremely stratified. 
  • Research shows that children from lower-income families tend to have poorer educational outcomes. Within Singapore, socio-economic differences accounted for a variation of 17% for student performances in Science, higher than the average of 13% across 35 countries.
Parenting and Caregiving
  • Children from low income families do not have consistent and stable adult presence in their lives. Care arrangements for them can very often be absent or unhealthy for development, for e.g., being locked in their own houses for long periods of time. 
  • They also lack the support of an involved parent in their education and schooling. 
  • AWARE's research findings on low income mothers reveal that formal childcare was not always available to their respondents, who have had to grapple with barriers such as high financial and compliance cost, distance, long waiting times or no vacancies, and unsatisfactory quality, in accessing public childcare.[7]
  • Low income mothers predominantly face "challenges of low wages, erratic working hours that do not match with childcare centre hours, discriminatory or inflexible employers, and lack of benefits such as paid leave and protection from termination"[8]
  • Low income parents are typically employed in shift work with long hours, affecting their abilities to provide care or be present in the lives of their children especially in relation to schooling for e.g. homework help. 
Socio-emotional Needs
  • Research has long established the impact of poverty on children's socio-emotional wellbeing. Maternal education attainment, household income, and symptoms of depression have lasting impact on a child’s social competence in early childhood.[9]
  • Low socioeconomic status is associated with authoritarian and detached parenting. [10]
  • Children of low-income families face multiple stressors in day-to-day life. This can range from household conflicts, incarcerated parents, divorced or single parents, to family members with special needs. Constant chronic stress impacts their physical, social and emotional growth. It can result in consequences like poor health (e.g. higher blood pressure, weaker immunity) or negatively affect their attention span, behaviour or ability to delay gratification (Mathews & Chan, 2015).

Size of Target Population

In the last Population Census in 2010, there were at least 38, 305 children below the age of 12 from households with a total monthly income below 3000 dollars, just below half the median income level of 3226 dollars and income at the 20thpercentile of 3219. This is an approximate base percentage of 8% of the entire population of Singaporean children aged below 12 in 2010. At least 20,807 households with children below age 12 had heads of household with either no qualification or only primary school qualification. At least 53,493 households with children below age 12 had parents who were blue-collar workers. 

Desired Outcomes| |

The prominent developmental psychologist, Bronfenbrenner, conceptualises human development as "the process through which the growing person acquires a more extended, differentiated, and valid conception of the ecological environment, and becomes motivated and able to engage in activities that reveal the properties of, sustain, or restructure that environment at levels of similar or greater complexity in form and content."[11]

Based on his conceptualisation, desired outcomes of childhood would thus be

  • Biological changes in accordance to human growth 
  • Construction of complex and valid knowledge and understanding (valid in the context of the specific experiences the person has had) 
  • Development of the practical understanding and skills allowing us to explore and change the world and participate in our environment more effectively, safely, and comfortably 
  • Becoming more motivated and more able to investigate, explore, manipulate, care for, and change the ecosystem we experience 

Bronfenbrenner does not define development according to IQ, test scores, grades, or vocabulary, or speed of processing, or memory capacity. It is specifically about our understanding of our ecosystem and our competence in transacting with the environment.

The following 10 needs of childhood have been identified by a group of SUSS student volunteers during a wikithon session. They proposed that these needs if fulfilled, will serve as platforms to support optimal development.

  1. Access to Healthy and Nutritious Food 
  2. Emotional Support
  3. Access to Adequate Shelter
  4. Socialisation (Social Inclusion, Social interaction with others)
  5. Access to Education
  6. Opportunities for Character Development 
  7. Opportunities to Explore and Expand Interests
  8. Access to Healthcare (Vaccination etc.)
  9. Opportunities to Make Independent Decisions (With adult guidance or support)
  10. Mentorship (Parent or Significant Adult)

Needs of Children from Low Income Families| | 

Need for Access to Education| |

  • Primary school dropout rate = 1.3% (2015)[12] A qualitative investigation shows that the dropout issue "is firmly rooted in the less privileged socio- economic status of groups predisposed to drop out of school."[13]  
  • International research has shown that family background may have more impact on reading and academic achievement in developed countries, compared with developing countries. Middle-class parents are able to provide rich literacy environments at home and invest time and money into helping their children learn to read.[14]
  • Although resources such as the public library are accessible to all students, middle-class parents tend to use them more, and more effectively[15]
  • High rates of absenteeism amongst disadvantaged children[16]
Infant Care Centres (ECDA)[17](Infant care and childcare centres often operate simultaneously as spaces of learning)
  • 2-18 months[18][18]
  • Provide full day and half-day care programme for the infants/toddlers
  • For e.g. Kinderland[19]
  • Main infant care operators[20]
  • Increasing rates of infant care fees since 2009[21]
  • Lack of available, well-trained and equipped staff
  • Consideration for on-the-job training for ideal candidates as infant care staffs[22]
  • Greater industry recognition to increase hiring rates of infant care staffs[23]
  • Increasing accessibility of infant care to younger couples such as Sengkang or Punggol.[24]
  • Increasing subsidies rates to younger couples.[25]
Childcare Centres (ECDA)
  • List of childcare centres in Singapore[26]
  • Infancy to primary school (18 months to < 7 years)[27]
  • Anchor Operator Scheme - Operators subsidised to provide good quality and affordable early education.
  • At NTUC First Campus (childcare centre service provider), 16% of childcare places (n = 1,500) are set aside for children from low-income households[28]
  • KidStart scheme for lower income families[29]
    • Impact of the scheme
  • Workplace childcare centers and schemes available
  • Working single mothers find difficulty accessing childcare places because of irregular working hours (100% of AWARE respondents in a survey)
  • Often, lower-income households might be overwhelmed with other issues and don’t see attending pre-school as a priority.
  • Another gap that has to be addressed is the transition between pre-school and Primary One where there is currently a lack of an official communication channel to share information on the child.
  • Tackling the problem with various initiatives including roping in neighbours to help bring the kids from low-income households to the pre-schools, and chip in with money for these families.
  • A online portal for pre-school teachers can be set up to upload a child’s portfolio so that it can accessed by primary school teachers.
Childcare Proficiency Training

Circle of Care[30]project (funded by Lien foundation for 2 months to 6 years) provides support and intervention for young children enrolled in licensed child care settings

CoC offers services such as training and consultation, individualised prevention and early Intervention support and support for family engagement for childcare providers.

Before and After School Care (MSF)
  • Inside/Outside school compound
  • Student Care Centres[31]
Primary Schools (MOE)
  • Compulsory education for 7-12 years old[32]
  • Gaps exist between elite and neighbourhood schools as well as the educational resources that more well-off parents can afford for their children to meet the demands of school[33][34]
Children Homes
  • There is some cause to believe that disadvantaged socio-economic circumstances are a variable affecting delinquency and vulnerability in children and youth.[35]
  • Separate residences under the CYA are provided for vulnerable children.
  • Educational needs for children under these circumstances are also put in place.[36]
  • Number of children in these homes stand around 700 at the moment, but has decreased because of the shift to foster care system. More info required about exact statistics [37]
Financial support for educational resources/support
  • SINDA Before and After School Care Subsidy[38]
  • Partner Operator Scheme[39]
  • MOE Financial Assistance Scheme[40]
  • Bright Horizons Fund (BHF)[41]
  • Infant care/ Childcare Subsidy[42]
  • KiFAS[43]
  • Additional Infant/Childcare Subsidies[44]
  • Child Development Account (CDA) / First Step Grant / Fresh Start Programme[45]
  • HOPE Scheme (education bursary)[46]
  • ComCare Student Care Subsidies[47]
  • Children Development Co-Savings (Baby Bonus) Scheme[48]
  • ComCare Kindergarten Subsidies[49]
  • Costs still remain high. Full-day programs vary and can exceed 2000 dollars a month[50]
  • Some schemes require tedious paperwork filing which discourages both parents and care or education providers from applying
  • While financial support is provided, this doesn't solve the problem of insufficient spaces in spaces that are convenient and near to the children's homes or parents' workplaces. 
Education Support
  • Tuition services for low income children
    • MOE Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS)
    • Mendaki
    • CDAC
    • SINDA
    • Other voluntary groups
  • Touch Community Services runs a five-session programme to provide pre-schoolers from lower-income households with simple reading skills before they enter Primary One.
  • Saturdays @ Lengkok runs a homework club at Lengkok Bahru for children from the public rental flats in the area 3 days a week.
  • The exact impact made by these tuition programs and homework clubs is not known.
Literacy Support
  • Learning Support Programme (LSP) in schools
  • Development Support Programme[51] -has been introduced in more than 300 pre-schools are in place.

For pre-school children with mild developmental needs. Support and intervention in areas such as speech and language, social skills, motor skills, behaviour and literacy.

  • I Can Read with JOY[52] campaign
  • Voluntary Organisations  * Readable[53]
     * Since January 2014, ReadAble has been running weekly reading and language arts classes for children ages 2 to 12 in a neighbourhood in the Chin Swee area.
 * Other Voluntary Groups
     * Beyond SS works with Bank of America to provide reading programs to the kids in the rental blocks they serve 

  • Support at home is needed to boost literacy
  • A survey of 6,005 secondary school students showed that four in 10 FAS students have fewer than 10 books at home. In comparison, non-FAS students tend to have more books at home.[54]
  • FAS students are also less likely to report seeing parents read at home. If they do see their parents read, they are less likely to see their parents reading different types of texts. FAS students are more likely to lack reading resources and role models at home.[55]
  • One possible idea is to facilitate a form of mentoring relationship between upper primary and secondary school students with volunteer parents from a range of professions.[56]
  • A parent-student pair or small group, the parent can be scheduled to spend the early-morning free period with the child, where they can share about their work and use day-to-day examples to show how they use their skills to earn a living.[57]
  • Another possible solution is to tap on these private enterprises to reward high-performing students by allowing them to choose an area of interest that they are keen to explore, and then enlisting the help of these providers.[58]

Need for | | 

  • (Synoptic Statement)
  • (e.g., there are 1 million children in Singapore - please cite)
Existing services or programmes both private or public, including relevant policies and legislation, to meet the need. (e.g., Childcare Centres) Find these out from relevant sources - newspapers, reports, surveys, interviews with key stakeholders etc. 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)] 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 (insert description)| | 

  • (Synoptic Statement)
  • (e.g., there are 1 million children in Singapore - please cite)
Existing services or programmes both private or public, including relevant policies and legislation, to meet the need. (e.g., Childcare Centres) Find these out from relevant sources - newspapers, reports, surveys, interviews with key stakeholders etc. 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)] 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.

Resource Directory| | 

[insert organization name]| | 

Insert web link

[insert organization name]| | 

Insert web link

  1. Jump up ↑
  2. Jump up ↑
  3. Jump up ↑

  6. Gan, T. P. (2018, November 20). Reviewing and raising the current income eligibility cap for MOE FAS [Press release]. Retrieved from
  11. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  18. 18.0 18.1
  35. Choi, Alfred, and T Wing Lo. Fighting Youth Crime A Comparative Study of Two Little Dragons in Asia. Singapore: Marshall Cavenish, 2004.