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Overview of Trends of Economic Inequality in Singapore


Has the dispersion of earnings been increasing in recent decades?Yes, however there is little evidence of trend in top decile of earnings over 40 year period of rapid growth.
Has overall inequality increased in recent years?Yes, the Gini coefficient increased in late 1990s up to mid-2000s.
Have there been periods when overall inequality fell for a sustained period?Incomplete evidence.
Has poverty been falling or rising in recent decades?No evidence.
Has there been a U-pattern for top income shares over time?No. Top gross income shares were stable for fifty years, before and after independence, but rose by 50 per cent after 1997.
Has the distribution of wealth followed the same pattern as income?No evidence.
Additional noteworthy featuresImpact of 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Sources and References

Sources for the historical data series:

Overall inequality: Series 1 per capita monthly income from work for employed population only from Krongkaew and Ragayah (2006, Table 2); Series 2 per capita monthly income from work from Krongkaew and Ragayah (2006, Table 2); Series 3 household income from work per household member (based on modified OECD scale) including employer Central Provident Fund -CPF- contributions and after accounting for government transfers and taxes, from Statistics Singapore “Key household incomes trend, 2012”, Chart 3. The series is linked at 2002 back to 2000 using Gini based on household income from work per household member including employer CPF contributions and after government transfers and taxes, from Statistics Singapore (sheet T18 data from Key Household Incomes Trend, 2012, spreadsheet).

Top income shares: Shares of top 1 and 0.1 per cent in total gross income from WTID, based on work of Atkinson (2010), updated using the Annual Reports of the Inland Revenue Authority, Appendix 5.

Poverty: no suitable data were found.

Individual earnings: Earnings at upper quintile as percentage of median from Central Pension Fund earnings data, as described in Atkinson (2010), updated from Yearbook of Singapore Statistics, Table 4.10. This source no longer contains earnings figures.

Wealth: no suitable data were found.


  • Atkinson, A B, 2010, “Top incomes in a rapidly growing economy: Singapore”, in A B Atkinson and T Piketty, editors, Top incomes: A global perspective, Oxford University Press.
  • Krongkaew, Medhi and Ragayah, Haji Mat Zin, 2006, “Income distribution and sustainable economic development in East Asia: A comparative analysis”, paper available from EADN Network.
  • Singapore Statistics, 2013, Key Household Income trends, 2012, papers and publications.
  • Singapore Department of Statistics, 2013, Key household income trends, 2002, Occasional Paper on income statistics