September 1970: NTUC Income set up to provide low-wage workers with affordable insurance coverage

Workers Launch 'Income' and make history

NTUC Income was established in 1970 with the objective of providing insurance protection to the masses. Up till then, low-income workers had often been left without insurance coverage, putting their families in difficult situations if something bad happened. Serious illnesses, injuries or death of the sole breadwinner often resulted in much unthinkable hardship for the widow and surviving children. Now, back in those days, life insurance was something only the richer groups could afford. Income’s goal then was to create a positive social impact through their services and products. Today, they serve more than 2 million policyholders…

On 6 Jan 2022, NTUC Income announced plans to convert its legal structure from a co-operative to a company governed by the Companies Act. National University of Singapore business professor Lawrence Loh said the move will allow Income to enter the fray of the largest players. The thing is, as a cooperative, Income is constrained in expansion because only trade unions and other co-ops can invest in the insurer. After corporatisation, if Income can offer products and services at affordable premiums, policyholders will ultimately benefit too. Necessary amidst increased competition, but the announcement raised some eyebrows. For members, concerns are starting to surface. Will my benefits given for the past 52 years continue? What about Income’s social mission? 

Well, Income’s latest annual social impact report shows that it disbursed $1.1 million in bursaries and refunded more than $1 million in travel insurance premiums to customers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic border closures in 2020. 

Current policyholders will continue to have the same coverage, benefits and terms after the proposed exercise. Unionised employees will continue to be represented by the Singapore Insurance Employees’ Union.

Income has just pledged $100 million over 10 years to support causes that champion the low-income, including education for youth and children in need, the elderly and the environment. Income chief executive Andrew Yeo has also promised that Income will continue to cater to underserved customer segments such as the elderly, people with special needs, and migrant and gig workers. 

“Income was initially set up to plug a social need to provide insurance for workers…. We continue to be steadfast on this purpose even as we embark on the corporatisation exercise.” 

The mission has not changed.