Uncategorized Singapore remains destination of choice for expatriate workforce

Singapore remains destination of choice for expatriate workforce




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expatriateAccording to Mercer’s 20th annual Quality of Living survey, Singapore continues to offer the world’s highest quality of living and remains an attractive destination for expatriate employees on assignment. The city-state retained its stellar position as the Asian city with the highest quality of living, and came in 25th globally.

Mercer’s authoritative survey is one of the world’s most comprehensive and is conducted annually to enable multinational companies and other organisations to compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments.

“With increasing globalisation and changing demographic of the workforce – attracting and retaining the right talent is set to be one of the key challenges for businesses over the next five years,” said Ilya Bonic, senior partner and president of Mercer’s career business.

“An increasingly diverse workforce is both more mobile and digital with highly diverging requirements and aspirations in terms of career, lifestyle and ultimately where and how they want to work. Companies need to consider these factors in their value proposition to both their local and their expatriate employees.”

Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, tracked 231 cities in 2017 using data analysed largely between September and November 2017.

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Said Mario Ferraro, Mercer’s global mobility practice leader – Asia, Middle East, Africa and Turkey: “The best liveable cities can attract executives in multinational businesses, like Singapore which is the top ranked Asian city in Mercer’s 2018 quality of living ranking. There are few success stories like Singapore, which went from third world economy to first world within a single generation and is primed for the future of work.”

Singapore also scored pretty decently in another survey for the expatriate workforce conducted by HSBC. HSBC’s annual Expat Explorer report released in September last year, ranked Singapore as the world’s best overall destination for the expatriate workforce for the third year running. In Singapore, nearly three-quarters of expats polled said that the city-state offers better earning potential than their home country.

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Singapore, being a multi-racial island city, is a great destination for the expatriate workforce. The country’s political stability, low crime rate, high efficiency and absence of natural disasters have altogether made the country an ideal workplace and investment haven for foreigners.

All these factors are reasons why the expatriate workforce may contemplate buying a residential property here – either for investment or owner-occupation.

But Singapore has several land ownership restrictions which an expatriate intending to invest in property here must be mindful of.

Housing types


About 80 per cent of Singapore’s population dwell in public housing, or what is commonly known as HDB (Housing Development Board) flats. In most cases, an expatriate may not be eligible to purchase this category of housing as these are subsidised flats. An exception applies if you have a Singapore citizen spouse. Under HDB’s Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme, a SC-Foreigner couple can buy a HDB flat from the resale market.


An expatriate who is single or foreigners with non-Singapore citizen spouse have their choices limited to strata-titled private residential properties only. For this class of property, they can purchase non-landed ones without any special application. However, if a foreigner wants to acquire all the apartments within a building or all the units in an approved condominium development, he must first obtain the approval of the Minister for Law.


Landed properties fall under the purview of the Restricted Residential Property Act. An expatriate acquiring “detached house, semi-detached house, terrace house (including linked house or townhouse)” (SLA,“Foreign Ownership of Properties”) have to obtain prior approval from the Minister for Law. And the land area of the property cannot be more than 1,393.5 sq metres (15,000 sq ft). The application process usually takes 6 weeks and is subjected to approval. Sales of the landed property is allowed only after a minimum occupation period of three years.

Properties above $1 million mark

An expatriate who is planning to buy a residential property that crosses the $1M mark, must be prepared to pay more buyers stamp duty (BSD) effective 20th Feb 2018. Previously, the top marginal BSD rate is 3 per cent on residential property value above $1M. Under the new top marginal BSD announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, it will increase to 4 per cent.

The first $180,000 of the property value will still be taxed at 1 per cent; The next $180,000 at 2 per cent; The following $640,000 at 3 per cent. The portion of the value exceeding $1M, which is where the new top marginal BSD will apply, will be taxed at 4 per cent. This means that if you purchase a property at $1.5M, you will need to pay $44,600 of BSD instead of $39,600 previously.

Assuming a Property Price of $1,500,000

On or before 19th Feb 2018, budget 2018

On or after 20th Feb 2018, budget 2018

Buyer stamp duty Tax bracket Tax Bracket of Property Price Breakdown on the Graduated Taxable amount for $1,500,000 Total Buyer Stamp Duty Tax Bracket of Property Price Breakdown on the Graduated Taxable amount for $1,500,000 Total Buyer Stamp Duty


0 to $180,000



0 to $180,000




$180,001 to $360,000



180,001 to $360,000




Above $360,000



$360,001 to $1m




Not applicable



$1m and above







An Increase of $5,000

Table 1Buyer Stamp Duty on or before 19th Feb 2018 and on or after 20th Feb 2018, Budget 2018, tabulated by iCompareLoan.com.

One important thing to note is that the top marginal BSD increases with the value of your desired property. The more expensive the property an expatriate wants to own, the more he or she will have to pay for BSD.

The Government also recently raised the development charge (DC) rates for the period 1 March 2018 to 31 August 2018.

Budget 2018: 5 ways it Can Affect Your Housing Game Plan

All these property cooling measures though has not dampened real estate investments by foreigners. Statistics by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) based on the number of caveats lodged showed that foreigners are making a comeback in Singapore’s residential property market. Figures released in October last year showed that purchases by foreigners increased by 48 per cent to 794 units in the 1st half of 2017 (1H2017) compared to 535 units in the same period of 2016.  Those by permanent residents (PRs) rose by 32 per cent to 1,876 units in 1H2017 from 1,416 units in 1H2016.


So, if you are an expatriate who intends to invest in property here, the first thing you have to do is to get your documentation right – even before applying for a mortgage. You should compare the different mortgage loan packages the different banks have , and put in your application early to avoid disappointment.

For advice on a new loan, go here.
For refinancing advice, go here.Follow us on Social Media

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