Singapore Science Museum viewpoint

Robust and stable growth

Household wealth in Singapore has grown strongly in recent years, rising from USD 112,800 at the turn of the century to USD 289,900 by mid-2014. Most of the rise is due to the saving rate and asset price increases rather than exchange rate movements, although exchange rates provided a boost in each year after 2005, except for 2013.

Singapore ranks twelfth in the world in terms of mean personal wealth. Interestingly, it is now well ahead of Hong Kong, which was ranked tenth in the world in 2000, just above Singapore. We note that wealth in Hong Kong grew at an average annual rate of only 2.4% between 2000 and 2014 versus 7.2% for Singapore. The underlying wealth data for Hong Kong are poor compared to those for Singapore, but the difference in these estimated growth rates is credible. A fairly similar difference is found in the growth rates of per capita gross domestic product (GDP): 2.6% per annum for Hong Kong versus 5.7% for Singapore.

Household assets in Singapore are divided roughly equally into financial assets and real assets. The average debt of USD 57,100 is moderate for a high wealth country, equating to just 16% of total assets. Singapore publishes official household balance sheet data, which means that the information is more reliable than that for other countries in the Southeast Asian region.

The distribution of wealth in Singapore reveals only moderate inequality. Just 18% of its people have wealth below USD 10,000, versus 70% for the world as a whole, and the number with wealth above USD 100,000 is six times the global average. Reflecting its very high average wealth rather than high inequality, 6% of its population or 230,000 individuals are in the top 1% of global wealth holders, while its adult population accounts for just 0.1% of the world total.


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