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Household sizes shrank, median incomes rose over the past decade: Census 2020

Household sizes shrank, median incomes rose over the past decade: Census 2020

A view of an HDB block of flats in Singapore. (Photo: TODAY/file photo)

SINGAPORE: While the number of households has grown over the past decade, there were fewer people in each household on average, according to findings from Singapore’s census of population released on Friday (Jun 18).

There were 1.37 million resident households in 2020, up from 1.15 million a decade ago. But in the same period, average household sizes fell to 3.2 persons, down from 3.5.

This was attributed to the growing prevalence of households with fewer members.

READ: Slowest decade of population growth in Singapore since independence: Census 2020

The proportion of households with either one or two people grew by 3.8 percentage points each over the decade. In 2020, one-person households accounted for 16 per cent of all households, while two-person households made up 22.6 per cent of them.

Overall, about 60 per cent of households had three or fewer members.

This comes as figures released from the census on Wednesday showed that Singapore’s total population saw its slowest decade of growth since independence, while more residents were single and fewer babies were born.

Conducted once every 10 years, the census is the largest national survey undertaken in Singapore to collect statistics such as demographic, social and economic data. A total of 150,000 households were surveyed last year.

READ: More HDB households but average size shrank, with fewer multi-generational families living together


Household sizes remained relatively unchanged for those in one- and two-room Housing & Development Board (HDB) flats, as well as landed properties.

Those in all other housing types recorded smaller household sizes.

From 2010 to 2020, the average household size fell across most housing types. (Graphic: Rafa Estrada)


The census also noted that the shift towards smaller households was more prominent among Malay households.

In 2010, about one-third of these households had three or fewer members. But in 2020, nearly half of all households did.

Other ethnic groups saw smaller increases.

“Nevertheless, Malay households continued to have larger households on average (3.7 persons) as compared to Chinese households (3.1 persons) and Indian households (3.4 persons),” noted the census.


The proportion of those staying in HDB flats fell over the decade, from 82.4 per cent in 2010 to 78.7 per cent in 2020.

Meanwhile, more resident households lived in condominiums and other apartments – from 11.5 per cent to 16 per cent.

Overall, similar to a decade ago, nearly nine in 10 households were owner-occupied ones.


In 2020, there were fewer households with at least one family nucleus – defined as those with a married couple, or a parent with a child who has never married.

This figure was about 82.9 per cent in 2010, but stood at about 78 per cent last year.

“This was mainly due to a decrease in the proportion of couple-based households with children,” the census stated.

READ: Demand for professional caregiving help for the elderly on the rise

With an ageing population, more households also had at least one member aged 65 and above. This is the case for about one in three households in 2020, up from roughly one in four in 2010.

Overall, there were also more married couples – rising from 880,800 to 977,300 over a decade.

In line with existing trends, there were more couples in which both the husband and wife were employed.


Resident households saw their average and median monthly household incomes from work increase over the decade.

The median figure rose by 3.3 per cent per annum from S$5,600 in 2010, to S$7,744 in 2020. After adjusting for inflation, median monthly household income from work rose by 1.9 per cent per annum in real terms.

Factoring in household size, income per household member rose from S$1,638 to S$2,463 in the same period – a 4.2 per cent increase per annum, or 2.8 per cent per annum in real terms.

Growth in household incomes was also seen across all three major ethnic groups.

READ: Household incomes fall in 2020 due to COVID-19 impact, but rose in past 5 years

Speaking at a media briefing, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah said that the overall increase means efforts at creating opportunities and economic growth have “obviously had some payoff”.

Overall, 44.2 per cent of resident households earned at least S$9,000 a month in 2020, up from 29.7 per cent in 2010, the data showed.

The proportion of households earning at least S$20,000 more than doubled from 6.6 per cent in 2010 to hit 13.9 per cent in 2020. (Graphic: Department of Statistics Singapore)

Data also showed that the proportion of households earning at least S$20,000 more than doubled from 6.6 per cent in 2010 to hit 13.9 per cent in 2020. This income group accounted for the largest proportion of households.

On the other hand, in tandem with the rise in households comprising only seniors, the proportion of households with no one who was employed rose.

When asked about this discrepancy, Ms Indranee acknowledged that inequality is an issue that authorities are working on, through upskilling, job creation, job matching and education.

“Generally, across the board, people are doing better, but there are some groups not doing as well. And we must do everything that we can to help bridge the gaps,” she said.


Singapore’s population density grew from an average of 7,146 people per sq km in 2010, to 7,810 people per sq km in 2020.

Bedok was the most populated planning area, with 276,990 residents. This was followed by Jurong West, Tampines and Woodlands, with more than 250,000 residents each.

In terms of age profile, Outram had the highest proportion of elderly residents aged 65 and above.

READ: Growing preference among elderly residents to ‘age in place’: HDB survey

Sungei Kadut, Rochor, Bukit Merah, Ang Mo Kio, Queenstown, Kallang, Toa Payoh and Clementi also had proportionately more elderly residents compared to other areas. At least one in five residents were elderly in these districts.

On the other end of the spectrum, Punggol had the highest proportion of young residents, aged below five. About one in 10 residents was below this age.


For the first time, the country’s census studied disability-related statistics.

It asked about residents who have difficulties performing basic activities – including seeing, hearing, remembering, self-care, communicating or moving around.

It estimated that about 97,600 residents aged five and above were unable to, or had difficulty performing at least one basic activity. The majority of them were elderly.

Mobility was the most common issue that residents had difficulty with, followed by self-care activities.

For the first time, the census collected information about residents who faced difficulties performing basic activities. (Graphic: Department of Statistics Singapore)

Among residents who had difficulty with any basic activities, about one in 10 were in the labour force in 2020. Excluding the elderly, this rose to nearly one in three.

Out of the various domains of difficulty, those who had difficulty hearing had the highest labour force participation rate at 45.7 per cent in 2020, followed by those with difficulty seeing, at 36.5 per cent.

READ: Singapore unveils plans to provide people with disabilities with customised job coaching


All this data helps inform policies, said Ms Indranee.

In particular, the data on seniors is “going to be quite important”, given Singapore’s rapidly ageing population, she said.

“Knowing where the seniors are, knowing their age, knowing what they're able to do tells you what kind of housing you need to provide for them,” she added.

“It will also tell you - do you need more care, and what kind of care? … Where do you site them? … So knowing the numbers, knowing their disabilities, knowing that profile will inform policy for helping seniors as we age.”

Source: CNA/cl


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