Singapore must define poverty, say experts

Singapore must define poverty, say experts

A team of researchers and poverty experts at the Singapore Management University (SMU) says it is time Singapore joined other developed nations in officially defining and measuring poverty.

Doing so could lead to greater public support for efforts to help vulnerable communities, they say in a paper from the Lien Centre for Social Innovation.

"Many Singaporeans may not be aware of the scale and depth of poverty in Singapore," said poverty expert John Donaldson from SMU's School of Social Sciences, one of the key collaborators on the paper. "We hope our research can help people to understand the nature of the problem, its causes and possible solutions."

The paper, to be officially released next month, reviews the limited local research done here and discusses the merits and drawbacks of various global poverty measures.

Aside from Associate Professor Donaldson, the authors include poverty expert Sanushka Mudaliar from the Lien Centre and economist Yeoh Lam Keong from the Institute of Policy Studies at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

They note that the living conditions and incomes of the poorest among the resident population here do not reach the levels of destitution seen in developing countries, but Singapore still needs to "reassess the way in which poverty is acknowledged, defined and addressed".

Prof Donaldson told The Sunday Times that the lack of comprehensive publicly available information is "an obstacle to informed discussion on the complex issues Singapore faces in its efforts to eliminate poverty".

For instance, while there are 105,000 households in the bottom 10 per cent of the income scale - the working poor - there is no readily available information on the number of retiree and unemployed households that are struggling financially. "We wish we had more such data," said Prof Donaldson.

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