SINGAPORE – Expatriate pay packages in Singapore have dropped by USD 3,804, with the average cost of employing a mid-level expatriate in the country amounting to USD 234,454 (SGD 216,628). This also includes an average cash salary of USD 88,045 (SGD 119,927).
However, despite the fall in costs, the country remains in the top 20 most expensive locations in the world to employ overseas workers. This was one of the findings of the latest MyExpatriate Market Pay survey published annually by ECA International.
When considering the cost of an expatriate pay package, companies need to factor in three main elements: the cash salary, benefits – such as accommodation, international schools, or cars – and tax. To assist companies that are relocating their staff by benchmarking their packages against the market, ECA conducts its annual MyExpatriate Market Pay Survey of pay levels for expatriates around the world, including benefits, allowances, salary calculation methods and tax treatment.
“In recent years, Singapore has fallen to be the ninth most expensive location in Asia for employing expatriate staff. As a result, the cost of an expatriate pay package in the country is now lower than other Asian countries such as Taiwan and Thailand”, said Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International.
“The key reason for Singapore’s more favourable ranking in terms of costs is lower taxes as compared to most of the other Asian locations in our rankings, and lower costs associated with benefits as compared to other high-cash salary locations such as Hong Kong. As such, this helps moderate the fact that cash salaries earned by expatriates in Singapore are the second highest in the region, where the average cash salary paid to a mid-level expatriate is USD 88,045 (SGD 119,927) – a cost that is only slightly lower than the Hong Kong average.”
In contrast, the cost of an expatriate pay package in Hong Kong continued to grow throughout 2019. The average price of employing a mid-level expatriate worker in the city now costs a company USD 284,466, including an average cash salary of USD 88,126.
“However, while this increase is seen to be positive as compared to the rest of Asia and even the world, the rate of increase was significantly lower than in previous years – coming in at 1.2%. This was representative of the weakened global economy in 2019. Moreover, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the average expatriate package in Hong Kong is unlikely to grow significantly for the foreseeable future, as pressure builds on companies to manage their costs accordingly,” explained Quane.
Meanwhile, China remains the third most expensive location in the world to employ expatriate workers, despite the overall cost of employing an expatriate in the country and their average salary dropping by over USD 6,000 and USD 2,262 respectively. The average cost of employing a mid-level expatriate in China now stands at USD 303,567 per year in total.
Quane said, “The relative cost of employing expatriates in China fell considerably in 2019, with an overall drop of USD 6,637 on average. This is due to the weakening of the Chinese yuan over the past 12 to 24 months, as well as a decline in economic growth in 2019 as a result of the ongoing China-US trade tensions. This in turn has put pressure on the cost of benefits such as accommodation, which has dropped by an average of USD 3,435 in just a year.”
Given the above, Asia continues to be an expensive location to send expatriate workers in general, with 11 of the top 20 most expensive countries in ECA’s global rankings being Asian countries.
Quane shared, “Although the average value of an expatriate package has dropped in most locations in our rankings, there is no doubt that the costs of employing expatriate workers in Asia are relatively higher now as compared to other locations in the world – for example, countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam have entered the top 20 most expensive locations in recent years. Further, of the eight countries in our list which saw increases in the cost of the average expatriate package this year, five of these were Asian nations.”
The UK has once again been named the most expensive country in the world to hire expatriate workers, with the overall cost standing at a whopping USD 413,194. However, the country’s average expatriate salary is significantly lower than many other nations, amounting to USD 73,849.
Outside of Asia, the highest rising nation in the rankings is the US, where the overall cost of employing an expatriate rose by USD 3,028 to a total of USD 253,056. This includes an average salary of USD 79,995. In contrast, Sweden saw the biggest drop, with the cost of employing an overseas worker now amounting to USD 219,232 on average – a drop of over USD 20,000 in just one year.
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