Pitching in to close the income gap

Pitching in to close the income gap

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call to Singaporeans to do more to help the poor is a much needed reminder to the successful not to neglect their civic responsibilities.

The widening income divide obliges those who have done well to do their bit for those who have not done well at all.

Even as the median household income increased 2.7 per cent over and above inflation between 2011 and last year, the inequality-indicating Gini coefficient rose from 0.473 to 0.478 over the same period, according to the Department of Statistics.

Yet, in volunteerism, those who earn the most are practically doing the least.

A National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre survey released earlier this year shows that 31 per cent of those with a personal income of $10,000 or more a month were volunteers last year.

Only those in the $1,000 to $2,000 income bracket did worse, at 27 per cent. But those with the lowest personal income, below $1,000 a month, did better, at 33 per cent.

High-income Singaporeans can take no pride in what these statistics reveal.

They may think they have earned and are entitled to enjoy the lifestyle they choose. But exclusive enclaves, expensive cars and other forms of wealth flaunting isolate them from the community and detract from social cohesion.

They need only look at the million-strong, not entirely violence-free, protests now sweeping Brazil to see how disaffection can catch fire out of the blue and how quickly unrest can spread with the aid of technology.

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