How MIS can help us build a more inclusive society

In this article, Teo You Yenn and Ng Kok Hoe explain why our research on Minimum Income Standards (MIS) can contribute to the goal of building a more inclusive society — MIS embodies concrete articulations of what social inclusion looks like, suggests multiple pathways to forging inclusion, and draws attention to a universal standard below which no one should fall.

In a society increasingly divided by class, where our lived realities and interests are so often disparate, this radical version of inclusion is necessary as a clarion call. If political leaders want to encourage solidarity across class lines, if they are genuine about getting everyone to support their promise of a more inclusive society, this is the strong version of inclusion they should articulate and insist on. 

Read the full article at

MIS 2023 in the news!

Our launch of the 2023 MIS report on 14 September was closely watched by the media. To date, there have been more than 20 reports (that we know of) by print, digital, television and radio outlets; in the mainstream and alternative media; both local and regional; in English, Chinese and Malay. See the listing here.

Many of the media reports focused on the 4% to 5% increase in the monthly budgets of indicative household types since our 2021 research report. Journalists flagged that around 30% of households have work incomes that fall below basic needs, and spotlighted our recommendations to seriously consider a living wage; reform income security policies for older people; and improve policy practices, such as by indexing social support to changes in living costs. Several reports drew attention to the definition of basic needs that research participants agreed on, which includes “a sense of belonging, respect, security, and independence”. Three government ministries issued a joint statement responding to our findings, method and recommendations.

Information on the MIS method can be found in our research reports, the FAQ section, and this commentary we published in 2021. We also discuss methodological issues and the implications of our research in these podcast interviews with and The Straits Times (Part 1; Part 2).

MIS 2023: Household budgets in a time of rising costs

This report presents the latest MIS budgets after adjusting for inflation between 2020 and 2022. The monthly MIS budgets for three indicative household types increased by 4%–5% between 2020 and 2022, to:  

  • $3,369 for a single parent with one child aged 2–6 years old;
  • $6,693 for a couple with two children aged 7­–12 and 13–18 years old; and
  • $1,492 for a single elderly person 65 years and older.

This is a gentler increase compared to price inflation, which hit 8.6% over the same period. For most item categories, increases in the MIS budget are comparable to inflation levels. But the rise in housing costs for the single parent household surpassed inflation, while transport costs in the MIS budgets lagged significantly behind inflation. From 2020 to 2022, the general wage situation and level of support from public schemes did not change significantly, even as living costs as reflected by the MIS budgets grew.

For more information, please see:

How did the MIS research involve Singaporeans from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to find consensus about what a basic standard of living should entail? Read more about the MIS method in this op-ed by Teo You Yenn and Ng Kok Hoe of the MIS team, published in October 2021:

The Straits Times’ In Your Opinion Podcast (1)

In this episode of In Your Opinion Podcast, the first of two parts, Teo You Yenn and Ng Kok Hoe explain the MIS study and its methodology. Head over to listen to the podcast episode!


00:41: Is there a household budget that captures the lived realities of Singaporeans? What is the Minimum Income Standard?

04:55: Addressing criticisms of the study and its methodology

10:00 How is the Minimum Income Standard applied in the United Kingdom, and how does the UK decide what is a living wage?

A Living Wage for Singapore

A living wage is a matter of justice. Is it time for us to consider this seriously in Singapore? If so, how much should a living wage be?

Ng Kok Hoe and Teo You Yenn

In this article in the Singapore Institute of Directors’ Directors Bulletin, Ng Kok Hoe and Teo You Yenn discussed the possible living wage for Singapore. A living wage is a level of wage that affords workers a decent standard of living, relative to contemporary norms in their society. Based on the household budgets reported in our 2021 study, the research team comes up with a starting point and a reasonable target for considering a living wage for Singapore. To read more, please refer to the document below.

This article was first published in the Q2 2022 issue of the SID Directors Bulletin published by the Singapore Institute of Directors.”

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy 17th Anniversary Podcast Series

Social Inclusion in Singapore: Are we there yet?

As the year winds down, Ng Kok Hoe (KH) discussed several major policy developments in 2021 with Shailey Hingorani (Head of Advocacy, Research, and Communications at AWARE), in a podcast for LKYSPP’s 17th anniversary. They spoke about the government’s plans to develop new public housing in prime locations, enshrine into law workplace anti-discrimination guidelines and extend the Progressive Wage Model. Kok Hoe also drew from MIS findings to reflect on the implications for social inclusion. With the new year round the corner, the speakers shared their wishes for 2022:

KH: One of the key findings that came out of our Minimum Income Standard study was, we calculated and we proposed a living wage level. It’s $2906. We proposed this as a starting point for a discussion about living wage. Now the Progressive Wage Model, I mean, we celebrated the extension, right, as a good thing. But its wage levels are way too low based on our calculations of what households need. 

So, in our calculation, $2906, we think it’s a very reasonable level. In fact, last month it was also announced that the lowest rung of the wage ladder for security sector workers will be increased steadily until it hits $3500 in 2028. $3500 in 2028, even with 2% annual inflation, which we often do not hit, that is higher than the $2906 we propose. 

So, if I have a wish for, for next year and of course beyond, I know this is not work that can be done in a year or two, it is to have a greater conversation around wages and people’s living standards that are based on principles like these – people’s needs, what is decent, what is basic, and what will allow people to not feel excluded from society.

Head over to listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript!

Making sense of MIS research motivations and methodology

Is MIS a rigorous research method? What does “basic standard of living” mean in the study? How did the participants differentiate needs from wants? How do the budgets capture universal needs rather than participants’ lifestyles and preferences? Does talking about material needs encourage consumerism? What can we learn about public policy by studying what people need? Why do we make the MIS research report publicly accessible? Two members of the MIS team, Ng Kok Hoe and Teo You Yenn, spoke to about all these and more. Listen to the full podcast episode here.