S’pore still attractive to expats despite higher cost of living

January 26th, 2012 at 11:16 pm

The role of foreigners in Singapore has been a topic of much debate in recent months. They have been cited as part of the reason why property prices have risen dramatically during the past two years.

But that trend has not been restricted to Singapore. Property buyers and investors from overseas — and especially from Southeast Asia — have also been singled out in the UK media for driving the prices of homes in central London, for example, increasingly out of the reach of local buyers.

December’s cooling measures, and particularly the 10 percent additional stamp duty for foreign buyers, has already had an impact on Singapore’s property market, however it remains to be seen whether expatriates — those who are specifically sent here to work by their employer — will opt to rent and thereby drive up property rental prices in the process.

The global financial crisis has seen a significant number of corporations cutting back on their expatriate workforce, and Singapore has not been immune from these cuts. Expats are people who are residing, temporarily or permanently, in a country other than where they were brought up. Commonly it means anyone living in a country where they are not a citizen.

Most expats would agree that there are far worse places in the world to be posted than Singapore. That fact is underlined by a recent HSBC survey which analysed life for expatriates around the world.

The Expat Explorer Survey 2011 ranked Singapore highly as a destination for expats who are relocating in terms of salary. It said: “… half of those surveyed earn more than US$200,000 (S$257,650), placing Singapore second in the Expat Economics League table.” Egypt was ranked top, with Switzerland, Russia and Japan completing the top five spots.

Expats also have much more disposable income after relocating to Singapore. The survey found 51 percent said they had more, compared to 35 percent of respondents. But interestingly the survey concluded that expats in Singapore need to have larger incomes to maintain their standard of living, due to the high cost of living. According to the survey, expats are spending significantly more on accommodation (82 percent compared to 50 percent globally) and food (65 percent compared to 50 percent globally).

When it comes to education, Singapore leads the world in terms of cost for raising expatriate children. Average costs here, according to the survey, are US$20,122 (S$25,930) compared to a global average of US$11,558 (S$14,930), but that money appears to be well spent as Singapore’s expats are also the most satisfied with the standard of education available.

Where expats in Singapore fare less well, according to the survey, is integration where they ranked 25th of the 31 countries surveyed. Singapore expats are more likely to spend time with other expats and are more likely to send their children to international schools.

When it comes to living a life of luxury, expatriates in other parts of the world do better. Singapore is ranked 13th, with South Africa, Thailand and the Philippines ranking in the top three positions according to the survey. Even Malaysia, which ranked 6th and is where a lot of Singaporean expatriates are working, is perceived to be a more luxurious posting — largely because of the lower cost of living. Thailand also tops the list in terms of the overall expat experience — which takes into account setting up, integration and quality of life. Singapore ranked 11.

Obviously, the survey questions expatriates around the world including Singaporean expatriates in other parts of the world. What conclusions can we draw from this report? Singapore remains an attractive posting for expats — but other cities now offer more in terms of lower cost of living and a higher quality of life.

(Source: Property Guru)