International Business & Economy Is Singapore Still Ideal for Expats? (Spoiler: Opposite of Yes)

Is Singapore Still Ideal for Expats? (Spoiler: Opposite of Yes)




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Looks like Singapore’s no longer a favourite among expatriates. It’s unfair, considering all the things we’ve done for those people (i.e. gripe about their income, claim they steal jobs, and generally use them as people-shaped battering rams in political battles). Let’s take a look at some of the reasons for our break-up:

By “looking for innovators”, we mean “people who have ways of turning their money into our money”.

What’s Up With Expats and Us?

Singapore has been the number one destination of choice for expats for the past two years. But as reported, HSBC’s recent survey shows we’ve fallen into third place. We’re trailing behind China and Germany now.

Among the key reasons given were:

  • Job Security
  • Rent and Housing
  • Cost of Living
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In other words, they’ve learned to complain about the same things we do. Someone get the damn champagne; this might be the only time a Stomp commenter and a foreigner can agree on something.

1. Job Security

The only way job security’s compromised in THIS industry is if you forget the helmet.

More than 50% of survey respondents claimed the lack of job security put them off Singapore. The global average is just 39%, so as usual, we’ve come out top. Go Team Singapore.

The main reason seems to be the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF). Starting from August 2014, employers must offer job vacancies to Singaporeans for 14 days before approaching Employment Pass (EP) holders. The minimum income of EP holders has also gone up, from $3,000 to $3,300 a month.

That’s not an issue to big companies, but smaller ones have less incentive to hire foreigners.

2. Rent and Housing

These days, if an expatriate buys a house, everyone wants to know where he hides the cocaine.

The Additional Buyers Stamp Duty (ABSD) adds a 15% stamp duty to housing prices. And this in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world. Foreigners also can’t buy HDB flats, so that mostly confines them to million dollar private condos / landed property.

Condo pool“For that unit price, you could pay me to drown an enemy developer in it.”

Then of course, there’s rent. At around $3,500 to $4,000 for a decent condo, and around $600 to $800 for a room in a flat, we’re not talking peanuts here. And rent is set to rise: as home loan interest rates go up, landlords will jack up the price to preserve rental income.

If this keeps up, the next batch of expats better bring their own barrels and cardboard boxes.

3. Cost of Living

You know the main issue with living on an island, without natural resources?

Every damn thing has to be imported. Singapore’s the sixth most expensive city in Asia, actually ranking ahead of Hong Kong. Even if you dodge the high grocery bills, eating out is insanely expensive. At an average of $20 (low estimate) per head, cafes and diners can cost up to $700 to $800 a month if you eat out regularly.

(Unless said expats are happy to eat in coffee shops)

Don’t forget public transport: it’s hard to take a cab anywhere for under $15 these days (and cab fares just went up again). And as for buying a car…look, no one’s going to throw down an average of $75,000 for down payment on a mid-range sedan. Even car leasing costs are excessive, running into over $1,000 a month.

Can Expats Survive in Singapore?

Singapore cityYou CAN survive here. There’s fish in there, and sometimes the rainwater’s drinkable.

There are still ways to keep costs down in Singapore. It means making sacrifices; ones that fewer expats are willing to accept.

  • Avoid the expensive private schools, and go for neighbourhood schools. Our educational standards are pretty high across the board, so a quality education’s assured.
  • Take the bus and MRT. It may be slow, the seats may smell like an unwashed hobo’s crotch, but you will save thousands every month.
  • Rent a HDB flat in non-mature estates, if you don’t need fast access to town. It’s about 20% cheaper, for the mild inconveniences. (And if you come from Australia or something, our concept of “far away” is your concept of “within the backyard”)

For more on affordable expat living in Singapore, follow us on Facebook.

Image Credits:
jjcb, futureshape, International Real Estate Listings, Arian Zwegers

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