I think twice, even thrice with shopping

His annual pay increment last year gave him something to smile about.

It was "a bit better" than in previous years, said teacher Charles Lim, 30.

Last year's increment - in his sixth year of teaching - was about $150, which brings his monthly take-home pay to about $4,300 now.

"I remember lean years (during the economic downturn), when the increment would be less than $100," said the sole breadwinner to his 78-year-old father and 68-year-old mother.

Mr Lim is an example of someone experiencing an increase in their household income.

The Singapore Department of Statistics' (DOS) latest report, "Key Household Characteristics and Household Income Trends, 2011", recorded that household income from work increased last year for all income groups.

Among resident employed households with at least one working person, the average monthly household income from work per household member rose from $2,709 in 2010 to $2,925 last year.

This was an increase of 2.6 per cent in real terms, taking into consideration adjustments for inflation.

And on a total household income basis, the average monthly household income from work increased from $8,726 in 2010 to $9,618 last year.

This was an increase of 4.7 per cent in real terms.

But not all households here are enjoying increased incomes.

The New Paper spoke to 10 Singaporean households. Four of them saw their household incomes rise last year while the others did not.

Money concerns

One happy couple is Ms Noor Adilah Ngadi and her husband, Mr Anis Ponijo, who are both 30 and are teachers.

They said they had both received pay increments last July as part of the Ministry of Education's yearly pay increment exercise, which brings their total household income to about $4,000.

Said Ms Adilah, who gave birth to their first child last year: "Money has now become more important to us. We are concerned about how much it will cost to bring up our baby. We have to think about her school and medical expenses."

Then there's SMRT train officer Muhammad Hafiz Jumari, 31, who had a monthly pay raise of $40 last year.

"I had to do more overtime in order to earn more," he said.

Together with his storeman father and his human resources executive sister, his household now earns about $4,000 a month.

Other households had a less happy story to tell.

Private tutor Dyna Lim, 39, who, together with her Singapore Armed Forces military expert husband, takes in close to $10,000 a month, said that neither had an increase in pay last year.

Added Madam Lim, who supports her 75-year-old mother: "I think I can see some slowdown this year. I think everybody is more careful with their pockets; I am too. I think twice, even thrice with shopping."

Take also undergraduate Candice Neo, 22, who comes from a dual-income family.

Her parents' combined monthly income is about $3,500, and neither of them received a pay increment last year.

Said Miss Neo: "I'm a little worried because everything is becoming more expensive, and I think it's affecting my parents quite a bit. Sometimes I hear them talking about utility bills becoming more expensive and they encourage us to save more electricity at home."

The DOS report also indicated that households in smaller types of dwelling received more government transfers last year in the forms of growth dividends, subsidies and other schemes.

Those in one- and two-room HDB flats received the most transfers, at an average of $3,270 per household member.

But factory worker Chua Cheok Lan, 43, who is just into her fourth day of work, said this has not been the case for her. She lives in a two-room rental flat in Teck Whye and has a son in his 20s who is married and does not live with her.

"The last time I received financial help was when my son was in primary school," she claimed.

Still, Madam Chua is happy with what she has, although others hope for more from Budget 2012.

Mr Charles Lim would like some help with his parents as he currently spends about 10 per cent of his income on their health-related matters such as insurance.

As for Mr Muhammad Hafiz, he doesn't mind "more money in general".

"I'm hoping for perhaps a $200 growth dividends payout. That's not bad. It might cover the water bill for a month," he said.


This article was first published in The New Paper.