Singapore suffers ‘dramatic’ drop in expat pay: survey

Singapore has slipped significantly down Asian rankings as the price of employing expatriates falls, according to an annual survey undertaken by MyExpatriate Market Pay and published today by ECA International.

The average cost of employing an expatriate at a middle manager level of seniority in Singapore is now US$223,095 down from US$235,545.

Lee Quane, regional director – Asia at ECA International, explained: “Singapore saw one of the most dramatic falls in expatriate costs in Asia, with the average pay package falling US$12,450 on the result of lower salaries being provided and also a fall in the costs of various benefits. However, despite the drop, Singapore is one of the 20 most expensive countries in terms of the cost of employing expatriate staff, despite the very low personal tax rates.”

The survey identified Japan as the most expensive location to employ expatriate staff both regionally and globally. Conversely, Malaysia is now the cheapest location where expatriate costs dropped US$17,188 on average to keep the country rooted to the bottom of the 40-country list*.

“The average cost of employing an expatriate at a middle manager level of seniority in Malaysia is now US$150,868, less than half than it would cost to send an expatriate to Japan. Due to much cheaper accommodation costs than other Asian neighbours and relatively low levels of tax, Malaysia is bottom of the rankings and the least expensive city included in the rankings,” Quane explained.

The sum also rises
At the same time, expatriate pay packages in Hong Kong rose in 2017, after previously hitting a five-year low in 2016. The value of a typical expatriate pay package for a middle manager in Hong Kong is US$268,514, a rise of US$3,027 compared to last year.

“Cash salaries for expatriates in Hong Kong dropped last year whereas the cost of benefits provided has increased, meaning that it is now slightly more expensive for a company to employ expatriates in Hong Kong than it was 12 months ago” said Quane. “Although total costs associated with employing expatriates increased marginally in 2017 versus the previous year, cash compensation actually fell, whereas the cash salary packages offered to local staff increased by an average rate of 4%”.

Regional variations
The gap between Hong Kong and China has continued to close, with the average pay package for a Middle Manager expatriate living in China decreasing by approximately USD 6,000.

Quane said, “China has seen the average expat pay package fall to US$276,387, a drop of around US$6,000. This is a result of exchange rates as the dollar has strengthened against the Yuan. However, despite the drop in pay packages in China and their rise in Hong Kong, China still places higher and is the fourth most expensive country in the world for a company to employ expatriates.”

“The drop in expatriate pay packages in China has resulted in India moving up to second in the rankings after an average rise of a huge US$15,230 for expatriates working in India.

“The increase in India is mostly down to a surge in expatriate costs, such as accommodation, as a growing number of foreign workers drive up the demand of the limited expatriate-level resources that are available in Indian cities,” Quane continued.

Christopher Copper-Ind
Christopher Copper-Ind is Editor of International Investment.

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