Expat cash salaries in Singapore drop, 5th highest globally: Poll

People walk along a promenade at the Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore.
People walk along a promenade at the Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore. (PHOTO: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Cash salaries paid out to expatriates in Singapore remain the fifth-highest in the world, according to the MyExpatriate Market Pay survey released by international expatriate management company ECA International on Wednesday (25 August).

This comes even as expatriate pay packages - which contains three elements in cash salary, benefits and tax - dropped in Singapore in the past year, partly driven by lower costs of accommodation and other benefits commonly provided to white-collar expatriates.

Singapore is now the 17th most expensive location globally for companies to send expatriates to, with the average pay package for a mid-level worker costing companies US$225,171 (S$305,154) annually.

The overall cost of employing a mid-level expatriate worker in Singapore has dropped by US$7,284. On average, employees are taking home about US$1,000 less than their peers in 2019.

"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," said Lee Quane, ECA International's regional director (Asia).

Globally, Japan has overtaken Britain as the most expensive location to send workers to, with the average expatriate package in the Asian country costing US$405,685.

More than 300 companies took part in the survey, which covered 160 countries and over 10,000 international assignees. In Singapore, ECA's research surveyed 323 job holders from 76 companies.

Figures were collected in late 2020 with a middle manager position as benchmark.

Expat pay dropped in most parts of Asia in 2020

Expatriate pay packages also fell in most parts of Asia, dropping by over US$5,000 in Hong Kong over the last year, to a new average total of US$279,399. Malaysia saw a similar trend, with the cost of the average package falling by US$2,813 in 2020 as compared to the year before.

One of the largest drops was seen in Thailand, where the average value of a pay and benefits package for overseas employees fell by just under US$18,000. It is now outside the top 20 most expensive locations to employ expatriate staff.

Only Taiwan bucked the trend, moving into the top 10 most expensive locations globally for the first time, as rising housing prices inflated benefit packages and cash salaries rose by just over 1 per cent.

Consequently, Taiwan leapfrogged nations such as South Korea and Australia in the rankings.

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