Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability

Some Singaporeans are concerned that more attention has been paid to attracting wealth than addressing their needs

singapore

Singapore’s super rich are always on the lookout for new playthings. At a jetty near the Changi Airport over the weekend, a vehicle called The Humdinga – a cross between a Hummer and a boat – was launched in a display for local media. The amphibious car is designed for disaster relief and policing, but some of the city state’s wealthier residents are eyeing it as an alternative to another Ferrari 458. The chance to bypass traffic by dipping into the waterways to reach the office, golf course or their yacht, is pretty alluring.

For the wealthiest, the news this week that Singapore now tops Tokyo and Osaka as the world’s most expensive city, according to a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), is probably not much of a surprise. But for ordinary Singaporeans, the daily cost of living has become a serious concern.

The survey, which compared cost of living in 131 cities, points to a strong Singapore dollar and depreciation in the Japanese yen for the result. Singapore was found to be the most expensive city to run a car and the most expensive place to buy clothes.

“The cost of living here has risen so rapidly in recent years that it’s practically impossible for young couples to afford housing or quality childcare unless they’re both working in relatively well-paying, white-collar jobs,” said Ashwin, an MBA student at  the INSEAD School of Business and a father of a two-month-old, who only provided  one name.

The Singapore-based EIU Asia analyst Sumana Rajarethnam agreed. “It’s not surprising that Singapore is the world’s most expensive city, it has been creeping up the cost-of-living rankings in recent years,” he said. “Ten years ago it was in 18th place, last year it was in sixth.”

With a population of 5.4 million people, Singapore now has more millionaires per capita than any other country in the world. According to Wealth-X, a consultancy that monitors the world’s über-rich, some 1,400 ultra-high-net-worth individuals call Singapore home, and they hold more than £96bn worth of wealth in Singapore. It has also overtaken Switzerland as the world’s fastest-growing wealth management centre.

 

“Singapore in general has become a very attractive place to live – it attracts a lot of top talent who have high wages… and it needs to import a lot of its goods to meet that demand,” Mr Rajarethnam said. “People moving here, demand for goods, high wages… that all drives up prices.”

Local residents look at increasing foreign wealth as the main influence on rising costs, although expats too are starting to feel the pinch.

“It is getting prohibitive,” said New Zealander Jo Dix. “As an expat I think we’re lucky – we have higher salaries than locals. If you’re a local person, I don’t know how you afford to live here. In some ways I think Singapore is pricing itself out of the market in terms of liveability.”

Some Singaporeans are concerned that more attention has been paid to attracting wealth than addressing the needs of locals. A report last year by Singapore Management University’s Lien Centre for Social Innovation found median income of employed residents in the bottom 20 per cent fell by eight per cent between 1998 to 2010, while the income of those in the highest-earning fifth jumped by 27 per cent.

“I shudder to think what single-income families or those in blue-collar jobs may be experiencing here,” Ashwin said. “The worst part is that wages don’t seem to be increasing in line with this rise in cost of living.”

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Sport
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Teacher

£21500 - £31500 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to work...

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style