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Living Wage

Internationally, the notion that work should pay a living wage has a long history and broad appeal. A living wage is one that allows workers and their families a decent standard of living, relative to contemporary norms in their society. Major declarations by the United Nations and International Labour Organization affirm the importance of a living wage for eliminating hardship, ensuring social stability and securing workers’ freedom and dignity. Indeed, it is considered a basic right.

A living wage that households need in Singapore

Despite the persistence of low wages, policymakers in Singapore have been reluctant to consider setting a universal wage floor that allows a decent standard of living. In 2021, drawing on MIS research, we calculated a Singapore living wage based on the budgets that households require to meet basic needs. That figure has since been revised to reflect the latest MIS update.

Living wage for households in Singapore in 2022
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)
MIS budget6,3246,4516,693
Household work income needed to reach MIS budget after taxes and transfers5,2726,0456,624
Work income needed per working parent2,6363,0233,312
Living wage (average)*2,990
* Assuming employer CPF contributions of 17% (for workers aged 55 and below), the gross monthly wage should be $2,556.

This amount—$2,990 per month—provides a starting point and a reasonable target for considering a living wage for Singapore. In 2022, the actual median work income among all full-time workers was already $5,070 (including employer CPF), or 1.7 times of $2,990. Entry-level wages under the Progressive Wage Model, on the other hand, are 28% to 53% short, after including employer CPF contributions.

How the living wage is calculated

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

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

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.

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:

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