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Singapore expatriate packages among the highest in region, survey finds

Typical expat package for middle managers here is US$235,500, behind Hong Kong and Japan

The annual MyExpatriate Market Pay survey casts an eye on expatriate packages (comprising cash salary, the cost of benefits as well as tax treatment). The survey is done to help companies relocating staff to benchmark their packages against the market.


COMPANIES sending their expatriates to Singapore offer some of the most generous expatriate salary and benefits packages in the Asia-Pacific.

Taking salary and benefits into account, expatriates coming to the Republic as middle managers have the third biggest packages, after their counterparts in Hong Kong (ranked first) and Japan.

But the total cost to companies (in US dollar terms) of sending their employees to Singapore has come down over five years because of the fall in rentals for expatriate housing.

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The annual MyExpatriate Market Pay survey by ECA International, which helps companies relocating staff with benchmarking their packages against the market, found the value of a typical expatriate package for middle managers in Singapore to be US$235,500.

But when tax is factored in, Singapore - with one of the lowest personal tax rates in the world - falls to the ninth most expensive place for companies to send their employees to.

"This ensures that Singapore remains one of the cheaper locations for companies to send their expats to in the region, behind Japan, Hong Kong and China," said ECA International's regional director of Asia Lee Quane.

The Market Pay survey looked at pay levels for expatriates around the world, taking in information on benefits, allowances, salary calculation methods and tax treatment.

How they compare

More than 290 companies from 160 countries and over 10,000 international assignees took part in the survey. Conducted in the later part of 2016, the poll examined a middle manager position based on 80 ECA points, derived from a job evaluation system that measures the influence, scope and responsibilities of a job.

The most expensive part of the expatriate package in Singapore is the benefits element, to the extent that the benefits component is often more expensive than the assignee's net take-home pay, the survey found.

ECA International said that when considering the cost of an expatriate package, companies need to factor in three main elements: cash salary, benefits such as accommodation, international schools, utilities or cars, as well as tax. "Even though international school fees have risen in Singapore, the overall cost of benefits packages have fallen in US dollar terms by 10 per cent over a five-year period due to expatriate accommodation rental prices declining," Mr Lee said.

Over the past five years, the gap has widened between Singapore and Hong Kong for the total cost of an expatriate package for middle managers. In USD terms, the total cost of Singapore's expatriate packages has fallen by six per cent over the period; expatriate packages in Hong Kong fell two per cent due to the relative strength of the Hong Kong dollar.

Mr Lee said: "In local currency terms, although expatriate salaries continue to rise in Singapore, reaching the highest levels since our survey began, the cost of the benefits element has significantly declined. This means that the total cost of an expatriate package for companies in Singapore has fallen over the past few years in local and USD terms."

The value of a typical expatriate package for middle managers in Hong Kong is about US$265,500; for companies, the total cost of expatriate pay packages in Hong Kong remains the region's fourth highest.

Japan's expatriate packages were found to be Asia's most expensive, with the average package for an expatriate middle manager there worth US$367,500. The total package has risen by about 12 per cent from last year, with the yen having strengthened against the US dollar in the survey period.

Malaysia continues to offer the region's lowest total expatriate pay packages at an average cost of just under US$168,000.