Extraordinary economic growth during the past 3 decades brought wealth and prosperity to Singapore. This
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
growth was impressive during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1959, when Singapore gained self-governance, its per capita GDP was just US$400. In 2000, Singapore was ranked fifth in the world in terms of per capita GDP, ahead of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In 2000, the per capita GDP, figured at purchasing power parity , was US$26,500. A Central Provident Fund, to which employers and employees pay compulsory contributions, provides benefits in case of work injury, old age, and disability. Most people live in small apartments in high-rise buildings.
Social polarization is visible in education. The social prestige of a good education is traditionally very high in Singapore society. Private schools are very expensive and those who can spend a considerable part of their income on providing the best education for their children. Although the government is trying to encourage the development of a "knowledge society," education is not compulsory, and the poorer members of Singaporean society are disadvantaged, while the wealthy send their children to leading British, Australian, and North American universities.
In Singapore's society, as elsewhere, some people acquire wealth while others need to work hard merely to maintain a decent life. There are no statistics on the distribution of income, and therefore it is difficult to assess socio-economic and social division in the country. Traditionally, recent immigrants, both legal and illegal, have been the most disadvantaged members of the society. There is evidence, too, that social polarization exists along ethnic lines, with the ethnic Chinese community considered better off than the Malay community. In formulating social policy, the government has to take the importance of ethnic issues into consideration. The Singapore government supports such traditional values as a strong work ethic and the importance of family, promoting them as "Asian values" in opposition to the perceived "individualism" of Western societies. The National Council of Social Services, with the help of 150 voluntary bodies, provides most of the welfare services to individuals and families in need. The government also provides services for families in distress, with mandatory
|Household Consumption in PPP Terms|
|Country||All food||Clothing and footwear||Fuel and power a||Health care b||Education b||Transport & Communications||Other|
|Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.|
|a Excludes energy used for transport.|
|b Includes government and private expenditures.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
counseling in cases of family violence, monthly subsidies for working mothers with children in child-care centers, and financial assistance to low-income families. All residents, regardless of social status, are eligible for low-cost medical care.