How much are ex­pats earn­ing?

Singapore Business Review - - SALARY SURVEY 2017 -

Twenty-eight year old Kieran Hughes had high hopes when he de­cided to move to Sin­ga­pore to be with his part­ner a year ago. Back in the United King­dom, Hughes worked as a pro­fes­sional broad­cast en­gi­neer earn­ing $96,000 a year, enough to pay for mort­gage and buy his own car. With his strong ca­reer back­ground, he thought find­ing a job in Sin­ga­pore with the same com­pet­i­tive pay would be just as easy. But when he started work­ing in an au­dio-vis­ual firm as a project man­ager, he sud­denly re­alised that he bought him­self a one-way ticket to dis­mal pay con­di­tions.

Hughes earns $4,000 a month – just enough to pay for his rent in a tiny dwelling and to cover for ne­ces­si­ties. He de­scribes liv­ing in Sin­ga­pore as “barely liv­ing” and was nowhere near the life that he had back in the UK. “I have a three-bed­room house in the UK with big gar­den front and back and I rent it out for ap­prox. $1,000 dol­lars a month. Here in Sin­ga­pore you can barely get a bed­room in a shared apart­ment for that kind of price,” he re­called.

Hughes is one of the 1.3m for­eign­ers try­ing to make a liv­ing in Sin­ga­pore. And whilst Sin­ga­pore con­tin­ues to be the most gen­er­ous when it comes to ex­pat salaries and ben­e­fit pack­ages, it is al­most like sur­vival of the fittest for most of the ex­pats like Hughes.

Shrink­ing pay pack­ages

In a re­cent study by ECA In­ter­na­tional, ex­pat pack­ages in Sin­ga­pore have fallen 6% to $316,600 per an­num, in­clu­sive of salary, tax, and ben­e­fits. Mean­while, in its clos­est ri­val Hong Kong, ex­pat pack­ages de­clined 2% to $356,800 per an­num. Over the past five years, the gap has widened be­tween Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong for the to­tal cost of an ex­pa­tri­ate pack­age of­fered to Mid­dle Man­agers.

“Ex­pa­tri­ates in Sin­ga­pore have some or all of their cash and ben­e­fits de­ter­mined in SGD val­ues. For the pur­pose of our cross bor­der com­par­i­son we have con­verted val­ues into USD. As the value of the SGD has fallen against the USD in the past 12 months, USD val­ues of ex­pa­tri­ate pack­ages in Sin­ga­pore have suf­fered,” ex­plains Lee Quane, ECA In­ter­na­tional’s re­gional di­rec­tor.

He adds that the costs as­so­ci­ated with some of the ben­e­fits that have been pro­vided to Sin­ga­pore-based ex­pa­tri­ates have fallen in the past 12 months. This led to ac­com­mo­da­tion costs in ar­eas com­monly in­hab­ited by ex­pa­tri­ate staff to fall in the past year, re­duc­ing the costs as­so­ci­ated with hous­ing as­sis­tance pro­vided to ex­pa­tri­ates.

Quane ar­gues that this would not af­fect Sin­ga­pore’s at­trac­tive­ness when it comes to lur­ing tal­ent. “De­spite a fall in the value of typ­i­cal ex­pa­tri­ate pack­ages for mid­dle man­agers, salaries are at their high­est level in SGD terms for five years. Low tax rates also mean it re­mains an at­trac­tive lo­ca­tion. Be­yond salary incentives, Sin­ga­pore will con­tinue to be at­trac­tive to in­ter­na­tional tal­ent as it is an at­trac­tive place to live and work,” he reck­ons.

AON re­gional mar­ket­ing and PR man­ager for Asia Pa­cific Jini Pil­lai con­curs and says, “The value of work­ing in a re­gional lo­ca­tion and the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in Asia are sig­nif­i­cant non-mon­e­tary fac­tors that global tal­ent find at­trac­tive. In ad­di­tion, a de­cline in wage in­creases in West­ern mar­kets as well as a greater pool of skilled tal­ent in­clud­ing lo­cal Sin­ga­pore­ans and ex­pats from In­dia and China have mod­er­ated in­creases in ex­pat pack­ages.”

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