Award Banner
Award Banner

'I almost cried': Responses from Singaporeans on what it means to be 'poor' give netizens food for thought

'I almost cried': Responses from Singaporeans on what it means to be 'poor' give netizens food for thought
PHOTO: Screengrab from YouTube/Asian Boss

It was a video meant to shed light on what income level Singaporeans consider as "poor", and how much is enough to live here "comfortably".

But it did more than that, with the clip hitting an emotional nerve in many Singaporeans, based on the comments.

The YouTube clip, titled "What's considered poor in Singapore?", was posted last week on the Asian Boss channel. The 13-minute-long clip features about eight interviewees from different backgrounds.

They include a tattoo artist, a financial advisor, an architectural consultant, as well as an unemployed woman.

In a preface to the interviews, the video postulates how Singapore is known as a country where people are "generally quite modern and well-to-do". "But today, we want to find out how true that is," the video states.

Says the architectural consultant in the clip: "I haven't retired, the living standard is so high, I dare not retire [even though] I'm coming to 70, [I] still work."

When asked whether there are a lot of poor people in Singapore, one elderly resident replied almost immediately: "Of course," calling the neighbourhood of Bukit Merah the "lowest-rung zone of Singapore".

"Rich men don't come here," he retorted.


So how low of a monthly income did people consider to be "poor" in Singapore? Most agreed that it would be an amount that falls below $2,000.

"To be considered poor in Singapore right now, I can say it's about $1,000," shares one respondent.

When the topic came to what a "comfortable" and a "rich" level of income is, however, the answers were more varied.

"Below $2,000 is considered low income, $2,000 to $4,000 is average, $5,000 is more comfortable, I would say," the architectural consultant shares.

However, having a salary of more than $5,000 was considered by another interviewee to be "rich".

The tattoo artist stated that in order to enjoy a comfortable standard of living, one would require an annual income of about $80,000, or about $6,700 a month.

But when asked the same question, another respondent, the financial advisor whose salary is in the $4,000 to $5,000 range, answers that it would be "$9,000 to $11,000" a month.

The responses from an unemployed woman, on the other hand, gave commenters much food for thought.

The woman, who looked to be in her 60s, shares that she pays a subsidised rent of $26 for her one-room flat. She added that "$200 to $300" would be sufficient for her to get by comfortably.

Her reply prompted many to feel for her situation and reflect on their own.

Wrote one commenter: "'200 to 300' to live comfortably… I almost cried… You realise that we really have different perspectives on life."

Others pointed out, however, that the woman's answer might stem from not having to pay for utilities, nor does she appear to have a family to feed.

Another highlighted that the differing viewpoints on what a comfortable income is is less about perspectives, but rather "about how you want your future to be".

The video has so far racked up over 415,000 views and more than 1,000 comments, with many sharing their own stories about their financial struggles. 

But one thing seems to be for sure — that the concept of "enough" is subjective.

Wrote one commenter, who claimed to be earning between $1,000 and $3,000 a month as a freelance illustrator in Singapore: "I'm in the ballpark of some of these 'poor' ranges these interviewees mention… I'm poor in the eyes of these people, though I'm living quite alright still with what little I have."

He noted however, that many of his artist friends who are struggling walk a constant tightrope between passion and sustenance.

"Passion is what drives people to do what they like. Most of the time, however, money is a perceivable threshold of whether to uphold this passion or not."


ALSO READ: How expensive is Singapore? 2 tourists try to survive on a $50 budget for a day

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.