Netizens highlight ground reality after study reveals household income from work for poor families dropped 69% in 2020 due to pandemic

A recent study released on Tuesday (9 Feb) revealed that the median household income of families who requested help from local charity Beyond Social Services fell from S$1,600 before the COVID-19 pandemic to S$500.

The study found that the median household income from work dropped 69 per cent.

The study was carried out between April and September last year to look at the economic impact caused by the COVID-19 and surveyed more than 1,000 applicants of Beyond’s Financial Assistance Fund (FAF).

As the majority (80 per cent) of the FAF applicants live in public rental housing, the study found out that rent as a percentage of their household income more than doubled because of the pandemic.

The median per capita income (PCI), calculated by taking total household income from work and dividing that figure by a number of individuals in the house, was S$425 pre-pandemic and now fell to S$113.

The report discussed a case study of a single mother identified as B, who worked as a waitress to support her three children.

When her children fell ill, she had to stay at home to take care of them, and once when she fell sick and was granted five days of medical leave, she was unfortunately not paid for those days.

To make it worse, her company also reduced working hours for all staff due to the pandemic, resulting in her working fewer days than before.

She was also sent to work at another location that was further from her house, requiring her to fork out more money for transport.

The study stated that she had to borrow money from her family during this time. B also fell behind on her rent, electricity and Wi-Fi payments.

The study’s lead author, Dr Stephanie Chok said that COVID-19’s financial impact “has been especially brutal for low-income families, who grappled not just with economic hardship but multiple forms of insecurity as everyday life was disrupted in unforeseen ways”.

“Recovery efforts need to pay heed to the differential impacts of this pandemic, so that our new normal does not replicate or further exacerbate inequalities for vulnerable communities,” she added.

In order to ease the financial burden of low-income families and ensure better support for low-wage workers, the study recommended improving employment rights as well as social protection schemes for such workers, extending rent waivers for public rental flat residents and debt relief schemes.

On Monday, a report by the Department of Statistic (DOS) on the economic impact of the pandemic revealed that the overall median household income of families in Singapore dropped for the first time since the global financial crisis in 2007.

Particularly, the report noted that the household that which were hit the worst are the lower-income ones, with those in the bottom 10 per cent seeing a 6.1 per cent reduction in income.

On The Straits Times’ Facebook page, netizens have expressed their agreement with the study, highlighting that the pandemic has badly affected their household income.

Calling it “tragic”, users said that most Singaporeans are affected except those working in the “ivory tower”.

One user expressed that the Government should come up with a good Budget this year to help those who are suffering financially.

The support should not only focus on poor families but also mid-income families, he added.

Another netizen revealed that she lost her job and is extremely frugal in her spending as a result.

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