Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Relentless March Of The Gini Coefficient

The Gini coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper "Variability and Mutability". Worldwide, Gini coefficients for income range from approximately 0.23 (Sweden) to 0.70 (Namibia) although not every country has been assessed.

No matter how the Department of Statistics jiggle the numbers, Singapore's Gini coefficient (ranked second highest in 2009) is an ugly reminder of the widening income disparity. The orange line is based on lower numbers adjusted for "Government benefits and taxes" to pretty up a gruesome picture. If they are referring to housing grants or GST relief payouts credited to the CPF account, we know neither provides the hard cash to put food on the table. Or pocket money for the school kid to stave off hunger pangs during recess time. NTUC's welcome largess of a 5 percent discount on 500 essential items like rice, cooking oil and detergent confirms the pitiful plight of the poor is very real. Never mind if the temporal relief is only good for 3 months, after which the general election should be over, and a new round of price hikes will be slammed in. Beggars can't be choosers.

Meanwhile the holdouts against a minimum wage salvation are still preaching the skill upgrade gospel. MP Liang Eng Hwa repeats the official mantra, "Rather than cash handouts, training and increasing their productivity may help them break out of the low wage cycle."

The cleaners at a friend's condominium are issued with a plastic bucket and a mop to wash the common corridors and lift lobbies. At their advanced age, each is already worried that the onset of rheumatism could threaten their means of livelihood. Maybe Mr Liang can advise what skill upgrade program is available for such employees to improve their lot? Surely the management committee of the building complex is not about to invest in robotic cleaning devices and train them to operate the new gizmos? Don't laugh, PM Lee actually lauded Lim Swee Say for a similar recommendation for mechanical road cleaners. The hard truth is that there are many physically and mentally disadvantaged who, through no fault of their own, have fallen into the cracks of a cold hearted society hell bent on economic advancement. Since there is no welfare income to speak off, these unemployed derelicts don't even make it into the computation database of the Gini coefficient.

MM Lee once told NUS undergrads at a forum to ignore the UNDP readings, "Never mind your Gini coefficient. If you don't have a job you get zero against those with jobs." A social class divide appearing in Singapore, he claimed, was unavoidable in a maturing society. Citing the example of China, he said the country started as a classless society but has gradually evolved to favour those who have the right connections. But does that mean Singapore is marching in the right direction?


  1. Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. 80 percent dont want babies,
    40 percent actually want babies.
    Singapore got 120 percent population; from:958 Radio Station(Chinese), this is SIN Statistics!

  3. This is social injustice to the nth power. Where are the Singapore youths?

  4. have courage and vote wisely
    vote out the PAP

  5. Quote

    "A social class divide appearing in Singapore, he claimed, was unavoidable in a maturing society."

    Looks like our government gearing our population towards a Namibia standard of living. Where is the Swiss standard of living promised to us??

    If the PAP government does work for its people, why should the people continue to vote for it?

    Let's vote for another party which has the determination to bring down the Gini coefficient, lower the Ministers' salary, make them responsible for their multiple failures in national development, security, health care, youth development and education.

    Let's vote for another party which can make Singapore a nation for Singaporeans!

  6. Well, look at Norway and Sweden. Theirs is only 0.25 or thereabout. As long as we want to follow US style of capitalism, we will have the same Gini coefficient as them. Japan with seniority based wage system is better than us. I believe the government knows how to tackle but......

  7. China was classless? Are we in the wrong universe? During the infancy of communism there, the Mao Zedong connections and worship was so evident! Farmers were out and Party officials were in!

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