SINGAPORE: An older person above 65 years old needs S$1,379 a month to meet his or her basic needs, according to a team of researchers from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYPP).
This precise figure came from a study by the team led by Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe from LKYPP, National University of Singapore (NUS). They revealed their findings in a media release on Wednesday (May 22).
The household budgets necessary to meet basic needs were S$1,379 per month for single elderly households, S$2,351 per month for elderly couples, and S$1,721 per month for a person aged 55 to 64 years old, the study said.
The sums were derived from focus group discussions involving more than 100 participants from diverse backgrounds, and using a consensus-based methodology known as Minimum Income Standards (MIS).
Participants generated lists of items and services that were deemed a basic need through a common consensus. Each item or service was only included if participants agreed that it was a basic need, and could explain why it should be included.
These included personal care items as well as leisure and cultural activities, as participants agreed that basic needs go beyond subsistence. Household budgets were then determined from these lists.
"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,” said Dr Ng.
“Such income standards can help by translating societal values and real experiences into unambiguous and substantive benchmarks that policy can aim for."
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ACTUAL EXPENDITURE AND BUDGETS
Compared to data on actual expenditure from Singapore's Household Expenditure Survey in 2012/13, retired households spend a higher percentage of their budgets on healthcare than estimated in the study, which did not account for the cost of treating chronic conditions and major illnesses.
The budgets also have much larger recreation and culture components than in actual expenditure.
"Such needs may not be fully met among the current older population," researchers said.
Despite a projected increase in Central Provident Fund (CPF) participation and savings with future cohorts, the basic retirement payment of less than S$800 is only about half of the household budget for a single elderly person, the study said.
“To tackle inequality, it is critical to establish an agreed floor below which no one should fall," said Associate Professor Teo You Yenn from the School of Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), a member of the research team and author of This Is What Inequality Looks Like.
"The MIS method can be usefully applied to generate societal consensus across a range of household types."
MIS research has been used in the United Kingdom, Japan, South Africa, Mexico, France and Ireland.
The other researchers in the research team are Dr Neo Yu Wei and Ms Ting Yi Ting of the Social Service Research Centre at NUS, and Dr Ad Maulod of the Centre for Ageing Research and Education at Duke-NUS Medical School.