Mr Gan Thiam Poh: To ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (a) what is the current percentage of mobile phone ownership for each income group; and (b) whether the Ministry will consider defining basic necessities to include mobile phones when calculating the cost of living, especially in light of the Government's push towards a Smart Nation.
Oral Answer (to be attributed to Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Mr Chee Hong Tat)
- Based on data from the latest Household Expenditure Survey published by the Department of Statistics, the mobile phone ownership rate is high across all household income groups. For instance, the proportion of resident households with mobile phones ranged from 88.7 per cent for the lowest 20 per cent of households by income to 99.7 per cent for the 61st to 80th percentiles of households by income.
- Mobile phones and their related subscription fees and call charges are included in the consumption basket used to compute the Consumer Price Index (CPI-All Items), which in turn is used as a proxy to measure changes in the cost of living of resident households. Between 2012 and 2017, the communications category of CPI-All Items, which largely consists of mobile phones and related services, saw a price decline of 0.2 per cent per annum on average as compared to the 0.6 per cent per annum increase in the overall CPI-All Items. The decline in communications costs faced by households reflects the increasingly vibrant and competitive telecommunications market.
- More broadly, the Government recognises that mobile phones are an important enabler for many of the digital services that we want to provide to our citizens. Guided by the Digital Readiness Blueprint, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) is looking into providing support to those who do not have access to such devices. In assisting low-income households with financial difficulties, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) also includes their communications needs in the ComCare assistance provided.
 The Household Expenditure Survey 2012/13 collects detailed information on the latest consumption expenditure of resident households in Singapore. Based on the ranking of all resident households by their household income from all sources per household member, the proportion of resident households with mobile phones for the 21-40th, 41-60th, 81-100th per cent of households by income was 98.3 per cent, 99.0 per cent and 99.4 per cent, respectively. Many of these households own more than one mobile phone. Household income includes employer CPF contributions.