Living Wage

The idea of a living wage is built on a simple premise: workers should be paid wages that allow a decent standard of living. Since workers live alongside other members of society – cooperating and competing across many areas of life – this standard must reflect the particular time and place in which the workers live, and not be based on arbitrary comparisons with the past or other societies with less means.

A living wage that households need in Singapore

Monthly amounts, $Two children (below 2, 2–6 years old)Two children
(2–6, 7–12 years old)
Two children
(7–12, 13–18 years old)
Two children
(13–18, 19–25 years old)
MIS budget6,1676,2526,4267,750
Household work income needed to reach MIS budget after taxes and transfers5,2245,8106,4007,688
Work income needed per working parent2,6122,9053,2003,844
Living wage (average)*2,906
* Assuming employer CPF contributions of 17% (for workers aged 55 and below), the gross monthly wage should be $2,484.

This amount—$2,906 per month—provides a starting point and a reasonable target for considering a living wage for Singapore. Any living wage, since it is a single wage level that applies to all workers regardless of what households they live in, will produce household incomes that are more than what some households need (e.g. smaller households), and less than what others require (e.g. larger households or those with special needs).

How the living wage is calculated

Although there are many variations in the way living wages are calculated internationally, the core method has three steps:

  • The first step is to define what standard of living the living wage should enable and what this will cost. Different approaches may vary in terms of how far they draw on experts or public consensus to establish the definition and costs.

For Singapore, the MIS definition and budgets similarly provide a suitable basis for establishing a living wage.

  • The second step is to decide what types of households to take into account and the assumptions about their working patterns. In some instances, living wages are based on the needs of a few stylised, or the most common, household types. In other cases, calculations consider a wider range of household types and their distribution among the population. The assumed number of working persons in the household and their total work hours affect the amount of wages that each hour of work must generate in order to cover household costs. The lower the assumed amount of work, the higher the hourly wage rate needs to be.

For the living wage calculations, the study focused on households with two adults and two children in contiguous age bands because this is a typical household type in our society. In 2020, the average number of children born to Resident (i.e. citizen and permanent resident) “evermarried” women was 2.0. It is also an important household type because it comes close to the replacement-level fertility rate of 2.1 that is a major concern of national population policy.

Within this household configuration, costs vary depending on children’s ages. Assuming two children in contiguous age categories, the MIS budgets range from $5,224 (if the children are aged below 2 and 2–6 years old) to $7,688 (if they are aged 13–18 and 19–25 years old) per month. As the latter may be considered an outlier due to expensive university fees, only the other three possible household configurations with two children below 19 years old are considered.

  • Finally, decisions must be made about what policies (i.e. taxes and benefits) to incorporate, how and how often to update these rates, and whether to allow variations across geographical regions that have different costs of living.

With an assumption that both parents are working full-time, we adjusted for the same range of taxes (i.e. on on income and property, according to the housing assumptions in this study) and benefits (i.e. all universal and the major means-tested schemes).

Useful resources

For more detail about the MIS findings, please see:

For information about living wages in other countries, please see: