The Singaporean welfare state system

With special reference to public housing and the Central Provident Fund

Authored by: Youyenn Teo

The Routledge International Handbook to Welfare State Systems

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781472449306
eBook ISBN: 9781315613758
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041085


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The Singapore state is a highly interventionist state – proactive in coordinating how public goods are produced and delivered. This intervention has not, however, entailed high levels of public spending, direct provision or universalized coverage. Similar to the East Asian cases of South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Singapore welfare regime has been characterized in the past few decades by a strong orientation towards individual families resolving needs through their own market participation. Instead of widely cast social safety nets that also have societal redistribution effects, the state has built a welfare regime in which individual families have primary responsibility for ensuring well-being and security through lifelong employment (Holliday, 2000; Ramesh, 2000; Croissant, 2004; Aspalter, 2006; Chua, 2007; Teo, 2013a). Compared to countries in the OECD and EU which, according to Peng and Wong (Peng and Wong, 2010), spent an average of 20.5 and 27 percent of their GDP, respectively, on financing welfare and social security in the mid-2000s, state spending on these programs is significantly lower in East Asia. In the same period, Japan spent 18.6 percent of GDP, Taiwan and Hong Kong close to 10 percent, and China, Korea and Singapore less than 7 percent (Peng and Wong, 2010: 657). 1

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