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Malay Muslim Low-Income Households in Singapore: Gender Ramifications and Policy Challenges

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Urban Spaces and Gender in Asia

Part of the book series: Sustainable Development Goals Series ((SDGS))


This chapter is based on an analysis of multiple interviews and a survey of 25 low-income Malay Muslim households in Singapore over 18 months in 2013–2014. The detailed narratives illustrate the types of crises, challenges, and coping strategies developed by households in the lower income range. Among the gendered aspects highlighted in the study are the low levels of education, the challenges of single-headed of households and of older generations taking care of their grandchildren. The most important concern for Malay Muslim low-income households in our sample is related to health, which illustrates the high level of vulnerability of low-income households to health crises, leading to potential lack of income. Second, lack of stable employment surfaces as another important vicious cycle. Third, stress related to raising children and the difficulties in supporting children in their education. There is undoubtedly a lack of voice for low-income households in Singapore, especially those headed by single females and by elderly individuals and having major responsibilities such as taking care of grandchildren, sometimes referred to as the “skip generation” households. Identifying and removing the fundamental bottlenecks that prevent low-income households in Singapore from moving upwards socioeconomically is a long-term process, because it involves fundamental institutional and social changes.

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  1. 1.

    We define the term ‘household’ as a group of people living under the same roof and having regular meals together over the last six months.

  2. 2.

    Singapore General Household Survey 2015 p. vii.

  3. 3.

    See MENDAKI Policy Digest 2008.

  4. 4.

    Singapore Census of Population 2010, Release 2.

  5. 5.

    Singapore Key Income Trends 2016.

  6. 6.

    Berita Harian (Singapore), 24 September 2009.

  7. 7.

    Ministry of Finance of Singapore. (retrieved April 4, 2018).

  8. 8.

    See Yin (2012) on applications of the case study method, and Verschuren (2003) for a discussion on the ambiguities and opportunities of the case study method.

  9. 9.

    See (accessed December 8, 2014).

  10. 10.

    See (accessed December 4, 2014).

  11. 11.

    Shantakumar (2011: 193) Table 1.

  12. 12.

    See Diagram 2.4 page 20 in the Singapore Population White Paper, available at:

  13. 13.

    See “our Singapore Conversation Survey—Final report” Fig. 2, page 2 (accessed November 14, 2014).


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Sincere thanks to the 25 households who shared about their daily lives as part of this study, offering us a unique window into their personal lives, and the support received from Yayasan MENDAKI, and Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, the chairman of the board. Thanks to MENDAKI staff, including Sabrena Abdullah, Muhamad Nadim Adam and the research assistants from the research and policy department, Muhamad Yusri Bin Mohamed Supiyan and Nur Shahanaz Shuhaimi, for their support in conducting interviews in Malay and translating them into English. The views and opinions expressed in this chapter only represent those of the author.

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Correspondence to Caroline Brassard .

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Brassard, C. (2020). Malay Muslim Low-Income Households in Singapore: Gender Ramifications and Policy Challenges. In: Joshi, D., Brassard, C. (eds) Urban Spaces and Gender in Asia. Sustainable Development Goals Series. Springer, Cham.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-36493-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-36494-6

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