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S$1,379 per month is the amount the elderly in Singapore need for basic necessities—new study

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Study advises an increase in the current basic retirement payment of less than S$800 to tackle inequality among Singapore's senior citizens.

Singapore—For people 65 and older living alone, S$1,379 a month is the amount necessary to meet their basic needs. Researchers from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYPP) revealed this as a result of a new study.

The team, headed by assistant professor Ng Kok Hoe from LKYPP, National University of Singapore (NUS), published part of their results in a press release on May 22 (Wednesday).

Prof Ng and the team held focus group discussions with more than 100 participants from a varied range of backgrounds. They used a consensus-based methodology known as Minimum Income Standards (MIS) and came to an agreement concerning the ways in which Singaporeans perceive basic needs. They then determined the budgets necessary for elders to have those needs met.

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Participants in the study then drew and agreed upon a common list of items and services pertaining to housing and utilities; necessary items for a two-room HDB flat; personal care items and clothing; food; transport; leisure and cultural activities; and healthcare.

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“This study reveals that ordinary members of society can come to a consensus about a basic standard of living in light of norms and experiences in contemporary Singapore. Such income standards can help by translating societal values and real experiences into unambiguous and substantive benchmarks that policy can aim for,“ said Dr Ng.

Based on the study, here are the amounts that senior citizens must have in order to meet their basic needs

  • $1,379 per month for single elderly households
  • $2,351 per month for coupled elderly households
  • $1,721 per month for single persons aged 55-64

According to the media release, another key finding of the study this:

“Participants agreed that basic needs go beyond subsistence. They emphasised values such as quality of life, independence, autonomy, and social connections.”

Associate professor Teo You Yenn from the School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), who is also a member of the research team and who wrote the widely-read book This Is What Inequality Looks Like said, “To tackle inequality, it is critical to establish an agreed floor below which no one should fall. The MIS method can be usefully applied to generate societal consensus across a range of household types.”

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According to state-owned news network Channel News Asia, the study thus draws attention to the current basic retirement payment of less than S$800, which is despite a projected increase in Central Provident Fund (CPF) participation and savings with future cohorts. That sum is only about half of the household budget for a single elderly person, the study said.

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The MIS type of research was initially developed in the United Kingdom, at Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy, and has been used in the UK, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France, and Ireland.

For those who are interested to learn more about the findings of the LKYSPP research team concerning the basic needs and requirements of the elderly in Singapore, the team will have a public lecture on May 24 (Friday).

The media statement says that the public lecture will include an animated video about the research, a presentation by Prof Ng, and a question and answer session with the research team moderated by LKYSPP associate professor Kenneth Paul Tan.

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Additional details about the study will be released in the full text of the report and its accompanying website, currently embargoed until after the public lecture is held.

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The LKYSPP research team is comprised of NUS academicians Prof Ng, Dr Neo Yu Wei and Ting Yi Ting of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ Social Service Research Centre and Dr Ad Maulod from Duke-NUS Medical School’s Center for Ageing Research and Education as well as NTU Assoc Prof Teo You Yenn./TISG

Read related: Transport Minister reveals that a hefty 33.4% of taxi drivers are seniors between the ages of 60-74


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