top of page

Singapore Income Landscape - 2023

The rising cost of living in 2023 has been a cause for concern for many in SIngapore; so much so, that it became a topic of debate in the SIngapore Parliament. Many lament that the prices of many things, from essentials, durables and luxury goods have steadily increased, while their incomes have not kept up. To be clear, the rising prices are part of a global trend and given the size of Singapore, there is little the government can do about it. On that basis, we had thought it might be more productive to understand Singapore's income landscape instead.


Discussions over incomes, especially in such times, could make for some spirited debates; which is great for online engagement but less so for promoting understanding and consensus on the issue at hand. As we often bring up in our workshops, the first step is to clearly define how we plan to discuss Singapore's income landscape.


There are several ways to understand incomes in Singapore; we will explore the following in this article:

  • Monthly Salary - this gives reference to the levels of income that an employed individual can earn in their current job role and how it varies by occupation, sector and over time

  • Annual Salary - Monthly salary may not account for bonuses and allowances which could be misleading. The annual salary as reported to IRAS would give a better understanding of how your salaries stack up.

  • Household income - each employed individual is usually part of a large household; and the salary earned in the job is used to keep the household going; such as paying for food, utilities, communication and other essentials.

  • Household income per person - Household sizes vary. Most households typically have 1-2 income earners, and that same household income is used to support the needs of all under the same roof. As such, for the same household income, larger households have less to go around for each member; but larger households also have some economies of scale in terms of their purchases.

That said, Singapore is not defined by the average or median salary, household incomes or household income per person; it is always a distribution; which makes it a little more challenging to understand but reflects the reality of society.


Salary

According to the Department of Statistics, the median monthly salary including employer's CPF contributions is SG$5,070. But monthly salaries vary due to many factors; such as age, sector and occupation; the median does not paint a realistic picture. We will explore how salary varies across the following factors:

  • By occupation

  • By Industry

  • By Age

  • By Education

  • By status (employee vs self employed)


By Occupation


Based on the most recent data for Department of Statistics (2023), it clearly shows that monthly salaries vary, in this case by occuption. Not everyone earns the stated median monthly salary of SG$5,070. Data shows that more than 68% of salaried workers are classified as PMET (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technical), or middle to upper management roles. This also makes the non managerial roles the minority in the Singapore job market (32%). A few notable observations from the data:

  • Most non-magerial roles earn between SG$1,000 - SG$3,999; while most Clearners and Labourers, which have lower qualification requirements, earn less than SG$2,000 per month

  • Most Associate Professionals and Technicians earn between SG$2,000 and SG$5,999

  • Most Professionals earn between SG$3,000 - SG$6,999; but there is a subgroup of professionals who earn more than SG$12,000 a month

  • Most Managers and Administrators earn more than SG$!2,000 a month

  • Aside from the non managerial roles, the PMET roles do form a steady career progression over time; which is reflected in the rising monthly salaries. We would expect the average ages of the Managers and Administrators to be higher than the professionals and associate professionals and technicians


  • Data clearly shows that most of the Managers and Administrators are aged 40-49 while most professionals are aged 25-39; which support the hypothis of a craeer progression over time. However, the data is less clear and a career progression from Associate Professional and Technicians to Professionals.

  • Most of the Cleaners and Labourers appear to be aged above 65. while the Plant & machine operators and Craftsmen and nor far behind

By Age

No surprise that salaries vary by age; one would expect that with more work and life experiences many would earn a higher monthly salary over time. But we should not expect this trend to go on forever, beyond a certain age, we can expect the monthly salaries begin to fall as some choose to slow down and pursue second careers at a later stage in life. This appears to bear out in the data.

  • Those aged 30-49 form the bulk of employees, approximately 53%.

  • Most aged 15-24 earn between SG$1,000 - SG$3,999 (79%), which aligns well with many starting salary data with respect to the educational qualifications

  • Those aged 25-29 earn more over time which support the idea of the job market paying more for experience and qualifications. Most earn between SG$2,000 - SG$4,999 (65%)

  • Between ages 30-59, we start to see 2 distinct salary groups. Most earn between SG$2,000 - $5,999 per month (40-60% in each age group); while a group earns more then SG$12,000 per month starting at age 30 and peaks at age 45-49. The higher salaried group in this likely reflects the Manager and Administrators.

  • Beyond Age 60, most earn between SG$1,000 - 3,999, beyond age 70, most earn between SG$1,000 - 2,999 per month. It is unclear as to if the lower salaries are by choice of the employee or due to salary structures of the employers.

  • The above observations are merely observations of the larger groups; there are many individuals who earn higher or lower salaries that what has been highlighted.

By Industry


Each industry requires different skills and talents and operate in different competitive landscapes;l and thus presents different opportunities to employees. So it should be no surprise that the salary ranges differ. Each company in each industry is also comprised of Managers and Non Managers; which also suggest that we should see two distincy groups.

  • Wholesale and Retail trades form the largest group of employees in the Labour market, about 15%. Data suggests that managers earn more than SG$12,000 per month; and the non managerial staff (65%) can earn between SG$1,000 and SG$5,999.

  • Most sectors have similar incomme distributions as Wholesale and Retail trades.

  • Transportation and Storage, Administrative & Support and Accomodations & Food services appear to have a lower monthly salary distribution with more earning between $1,000 - SG$2999

  • Financial and Insurance services appear to present more opportunities for high salaries, with 24% earning more than SG$12,000 and 11% earning more than SG$20,000 per month

By Education

While the world is very busy shifing towards a labour market that is based on skills as opposed to qualifications, data suggests that the salaries are still very much tied to education qualifications. Bear in mind that the data is unable to discern how this factor interacts, age, experience, industry nor sector.

  • Data does suggest that Degree holders tend to have a higher monthly salary; with 95% of them earning SG$3,000 or more. About 33% earning SG$3,000 - SG$5,999; and the largest group (14%) earning SG$12,000 - SG$19,999. Bearing in mind that this spans all age groups and sectors

  • 70% of diploma holders and those with professional qualifications earn between SG$2,000 and SG$5,999. While it is possible for this group to earn more than Degree holders, they are in the minority.

  • Little difference in slaary distribution between those with Secondary and Post Secondary qualifications. about 69% earn between SG$1,000 and SG$3,999 per month

  • Those with lower than secondary qualifications earn the lowest monthly salaries; about 72% earn between SG$1,000 - SG$2,999 per month



Employee vs Business Owner

If you're paying attention to social media, many are lamenting the terrible life as an employee and while advocating starting your own business instead. This article is not here to advocate one way or the other, but to offer some data driven insight as to the outcomes of such a decision. There are many ways to become a business owner; one of the ways is to be self employed.

  • Data suggests that only 12% of the labourforce are decleared as self employed

  • While some self employed business owners do quite well for themselves, data suggests that you would be more likely to earn more as an employee.

  • 51% of self employed business owners earn less than SG$3,999; while 51% of employees earn SG$4,999

  • About 11% of employees could earn SG$12,000 or more; only 8.28% of self employed business owners do the same.

  • That said, the employee who tended to earn more are likely more educationally qualified, have more relevant work experience or are in the right industry.

Annual Salary

While there is a lot of details in the montly salary breakdowns, it would be misleading. Employee's monthly salaries may not included year end bonuses; which could be sizeable for those in sales or commission related roles. The annual salaries provides a more objective and comprehensive views of employee salaries.


Bearing in mind that those with less than SG$20,000 in annual salary do not pay any taxes, the chart above shows the annual incomes reported to IRAS for YA2022. Data suggests that

  • The midian annual income is approximately $58,055

  • Two distinct peaks in the annual income distribution, notably at SG$30-40k and SG$100-150k chargeable income brackets.

  • It should also be highlighted that the number of taxpayers earning more than SG$1M currentlly stands at 7,766 and has been steadily growing each year.

  • The good news is that more Singapore income earners have been earning more over time.


Household Income and Household Income Per Capita

A higher salary is all well and good; but each income earner may need to support more than just their own living expenses, they may have a household to support. As such, it is technically possible to earn a high salary while being in a lower income household, by virtue of having more people to support within the household.


  • The richest 10% in Household income earns SG$29,542 per month; while the poorest 10% in household income earns only SG$2,104. The median household income stands at SG$11,906

  • But the Household income per person is quite different. The richest 10% in household income per person has SG$13,417 per month to distribute to each member; while the poorest 10% only has SG$632 to distribute per month. The median household income per person stands at SG$4,036.

  • Between 2000 and 2022, household income per person grew by over 2.5 times; the consumer price index shows that priced had only increased by only 46%. This suggests that most Singapore household incomes have grown faster than prices. While adjustments need to be made and that is often uncomfortable, it is not insurmountable.


Key Takeaways

  • To facilitate an objective discussion and understanding of the topic, it is helpful to set clear data definitions of the topic at hand. In the case of this article, we had explored 4 possible definitions of Income

    • Monthly income

    • Annual income

    • Household income

    • Household income per person

  • Each definition of income provided different insights to the topic; such as

    • Data suggests that there is a career and salary progression from Professionals to Managers/Administrators; it was less clear for Associate Professionals and Technicians. PMETs made up a clear majority of Singapore's workforce

    • Most non-magerial roles earn between SG$1,000 - SG$3,999; while most Clearners and Labourers, which have lower qualification requirements, earn less than SG$2,000 per month

    • Monthly salary appears to grow with age peaking at about age 50; beyond which we see monthly salary drop. Bearing in mind that this is a distribution with many exceptions to the rule.

    • The finance and insurance sectors appear to have a higher monthly salary distribution compared to other sectors

    • And employees tend to have a higher income distribution than self employed business owners

    • While the world is moving towards a world where skill matter over qualifications, the data suggests that education qualifications stillm matter. Those with higher edcuational attainment tend to earn more; though it is not a guarantee.

    • Annual salary is a more accurate measure of salary distribution in Singapore; the good news is that more income earners have been earning more over time

    • Salaries a a means to an end; typically deployed to support the household. Data suggests that household incomes have been growing faster than the cost of living over the last 22 years.

  • There is tremendous detail and insights from public data on almost any topic, but one does need to know what questions to ask, what data to source for and how to analyze it to glean contextual insight.


For more information on the above charts, you can click the link and check out the details yourself here


If you are looking to be able to conduct simimilar analyses of just looking to build up your analytics skills, check out our range of workshops here


22 views0 comments

Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page