Asset-building policy throughout the life course: Lessons from Singapore

Last two decades many countries around the world have adopted 'inclusive' asset-building policies providing institutional opportunities of saving to not only the haves but also the have-nots. Advocates for inclusive asset-building policy claim that opportunities for saving and asset accumulation should be universal, progressive, life-long, and adequate. Using the life course approach, this study aims to discuss policy development and challenging issues of Singapore asset-building policy.

Singapore is characterized as a city-state where asset building institutions and policies have been developed systematically and comprehensively to advance social development and economic growth. There are three types of Child Development Accounts (CDAs) in Singapore. First, the Child Development Account covers children from birth to six years. The CDA was introduced in 2001 to encourage marriage and to tackle low birth rates. Savings in CDAs can be used for childcare, early child education, and health care. The second type of CDA is the EduSave Scheme (ES) since 1993. The ES targets school-going children aged 6 to 16 and supports enrichment programs (e.g., study trips, sports, etc). Third, in 2007 the Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) was introduced to support investment in continued tertiary education. Balances in the CDA and ES can be rolled over to PSEA. In addition, unused PSEA balances are transferred into the child's CPF account. A key feature of the three CDAs is that they are interconnected with each other.

The Central Provident Fund (CPF) and Housing and Development Board (HDB) are two primary policy mechanisms that promote adult Singaporeans' asset accumulation over their life course. CPF is a compulsory and defined contribution savings for retirement income. More significantly, CPF savings can be withdrawn for down-payments and mortgage payments for the purchase HDB housing units.

This paper will conclude by discussing policy implications and challenges of the Singapore-style asset-building policy.


Han Chang-Keun, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Social Work
National University of Singapore

Full paper: Han Chang-Keun_2010_Asset-Building Policy throughout the Life Course.pdf