Singapore world’s 17th most expensive location for expats: Survey

Singapore has emerged as the 17th most expensive location across the world for expatriates, with the average pay package for a mid-level worker costing companies USD 225,171 annually, a survey by MyExpatriate Market Pay published by ECA International, said. 

cash salaries paid out to expatriates in Singapore remain the fifth highest worldwide.
Cash salaries paid out to expatriates in Singapore remain the fifth highest worldwide. Photo: Connected to India

Japan ranked first, while United Kingdom claimed second spot as the most expensive location to send workers to, with the average expatriate package there costing USD 405,685. 

When considering the cost of an expatriate package, companies need to factor in three main elements: the cash salary, benefits – such as accommodation, international schools, utilities, or cars – and tax. 

To assist companies looking to relocate their staff with benchmarking their packages against the market, ECA conducted its annual MyExpatriate Market Pay Survey of pay levels for expatriates around the world. 

Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International said, “As we’ve seen in many locations across the world, expatriate pay packages in Singapore have taken a hit. This drop in pay packages is partly driven by lower costs of accommodation and other benefits commonly provided to white collar expatriates, but employees themselves are also taking home approximately USD 1,000 less in cash salary than their peers in 2019.”

“Nevertheless, cash salaries paid out to expatriates in Singapore remain the fifth highest worldwide. This means that expatriates in Singapore are more likely to be paid more compared to their peers in other locations. Combined with its ranking as the location with the best quality of living globally, these trends serve to increase Singapore’s attractiveness to expatriates looking to move to the region and to companies looking to establish a regional hub in the country, given the cheaper cost of employing expatriate staff,” he added.

Expatriate pay packages in Hong Kong dropped by over USD 5,000 over the last year, to a new average total of USD 279,399. This was in spite of a slight average salary increase of USD 265.

Elsewhere, Malaysia also saw a similar trend to many other nations in the world, with the cost of the average expatriate pay package falling by USD 2,813 in 2020 compared to the year before.

“The average mid-level expatriate in Malaysia saw a salary of USD 71,025 in 2020, which is slightly less than the previous year. The cost of benefits fell by a much more significant USD 1,952 on average, as rents dropped amid a lack of demand for expatriate accommodation, which had been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on international travel,” said Quane.

Meanwhile, one of the largest drops in expatriate pay packages was seen in Thailand, where the average value of a pay and benefits package for overseas employees fell by just under USD 18,000.

On the other hand, Taiwan bucked the trend seen in many locations across Asia, entering the global top ten most expensive locations to employ expatriates for the first time as the overall cost of expatriate packages rose in the market.

The list used in the rankings is based on countries that have cities appearing in the top 40 of The Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI).