Wealth was synonymous with Singapore long before Crazy Rich Asians catapulted the country to its crazy-rich status worldwide. Shopping and super-penthouses have long characterizing the island. In fact, Singapore has been on the world’s list of richest countries for years. In 2018, it bagged the fourth spot in the International Monetary Fund’s biannual ranking.
This might make some new data all the more surprising: according to Bloomberg, most of Singapore’s spending comes from the bottom of its economic hierarchy.
Bloomberg’s Andy Mukherjee writes that “the quiet humming of the cash registers in hawker centers” are far more telling than the sort of spending Singapore’s millionaires display. According to him, it's the “masses” who are indulging in exhibiting their earnings.
There is data to prove it.
In the past five years, those living in one and two-bedroom public housing in Singapore have increased their expenditure rate far more than families in private apartments. The former saw their monthly spending increase by 3.7 percent, while the latter decreased their overall spending habits by 0.1 percent. The same trend arises when examining income groups.
In 2008, each member of the 20 percent richest Singaporean families spent $1,577. In the poorest 20 percent, this number was around $415. Ten years later, the numbers have shifted, with the richest spending about $2130 and the poorest spending over $681. That’s a 48 percent increase for the latter compared to the former’s 29 percent.
Of course, the gap between the rich and poor still exists. And the rich are still outspending the poor by great margins. But Singapore is also proactively addressing that income inequality. One government program consists of giving out $7,484 to everyone living in one- and two-bedroom apartments. This money is directly from taxes paid by the rich. Median monthly household income per family member also increased by 3.4 percent, according to Channel News Asia.
Income inequality in Singapore has seen a significant decrease since 2008. In 2018, the figures were at their lowest in a decade.
This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.