Pros and cons of moving to Singapore with children
Singapore is one of the leading destinations for expats, and it was ranked top in the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey for 2016. It offers fantastic career prospects, particularly in the finance sector, which is why so many families find themselves in a position to move to this bustling city.
It’s easy to see why it’s an attractive proposition: tropical climate, multicultural population and a surprising number of green spaces nestled within the towering skyscrapers. It’s also really well placed for travelling to other parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia and Australia, so many families make the most of holidays while they are located in this part of the world.
Singapore has blossomed over the years, shedding its reputation as a slightly sterile gateway into Asia, to become a cosmopolitan city of legendary shopping, mouth-watering food, and a unique ability to offer a landscape of both cutting-edge modernity and traditional sensibilities. Here, where exotic temples sit alongside glittering skyscrapers, a huge expat community has chosen to set up home, regularly voting Singapore as the top city in Asia in terms of quality of life.
Although 87% of the respondents agreed that it is more expensive raising children in Singapore, 70% felt confident that their children receive a better quality of education, and 71% believed that the move was providing their children with a better quality of life than they would have experienced back home. But perhaps most importantly, a colossal 86% felt that it is a safe city in which to raise a child.
When moving with children there are, of course, a lot of other considerations to be made such as the quality of education, healthcare and ease of integration. We round up some of the pros and cons of making the move to Singapore as a family.
Singapore is known for being particularly family friendly. Children are welcome pretty much everywhere, from restaurants to shopping centres, museums to concert halls. This means that there is always a lot to do. Must visits include the Science Centre, Singapore Zoo, Universal Studios Singapore and the Jurong Bird Park. There is also a plethora of water parks, play parks, education centres, sports facilities and open green spaces to while away the days.
The level of education available in Singapore is very highly rated – it is top in the aforementioned HSBC Expat Explorer Survey for school quality and there are plenty of international schools to choose from, which will help children to integrate quickly and begin making friends. British international schools follow the same curriculum as the UK, so if the relocation is not permanent, this is a good way to maintain a level of consistency. If the move to Singapore is more long term, then the public school system is also well regarded and fees are lower.
Healthcare is also very good, with most expats using private healthcare for most of their general needs. Public healthcare is available for permanent residents, but for those on a work pass, subsidised care is not granted and the cost to go private is little more than full-cost public care.
Getting around the city is easy, as there is an extensive and reliable public transport system, consisting of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and buses. It is becoming more cyclist friendly as a city, and it’s very easy to walk around too.
One of the biggest downsides to moving to Singapore is the cost. Everything is very expensive, from groceries and bills, to Western luxuries like alcohol and certain foods. Singapore is consistently among the world’s most expensive cities to live in, so this needs to be considered before moving. The highest costs for families relocating are education and accommodation. The fees for attending an international school will take a large chunk of income, and most expats live in condos rather than houses – party because they are more affordable, but also because it helps with integration.
The other main concern for families relocating to this part of Asia is the weather. While tropical climates are desirable for holidays, the hot and humid weather all year round can be draining. In the hottest months, it can be difficult to step outside and leave the comforts of air-conditioning at home. Dehydration and sunburn are the largest health concerns, and precautions need to be taken to acclimatise to the change in temperature. When looking for somewhere to live, a property with access to a pool is recommended, as this helps cool active children down.
Childcare and education in Singapore
In Singapore, many families choose to hire a nanny to help with childcare – part-time babysitters are not really commonly used. There are several reputable agencies that cater to expats in this regard. There are also numerous high quality childcare centres that take on children from two months up to the age of seven.
Parents of older children looking for a high-quality education have plenty of options in Singapore. The city has one of the top-rated education systems in the world, and schools typically have extremely high-achieving, well-behaved students.
However, there is a great deal of demand, as expats continue to be drawn to this thriving area. The most popular schools have grown very large and competition for places is intense. If you are considering a new life in Singapore, you are advised to start researching schools and making contact with them as early as possible. Get in touch with us to see how we can help you organise a move to Singapore.
A family-friendly environment
When it comes to leisure time, the city itself is wonderfully geared towards family fun and entertainment. You can expect restaurants and attractions to welcome and cater to children, plus there are plenty of community playgrounds and youth centres that provide a range of activities to keep children interested. Educational highlights include the Science Centre, the Discovery Centre and Singapore Zoo, while leisure experiences such as Snow City and the Wild Wild Wet Water Park provide top quality days out for the kids. Suffice to say, Singapore does not do things by halves.
Finally, selecting your living quarters carefully is important when moving to Singapore with children. A condominium with a pool means children have the opportunity to meet other young people in the building and they can also cool down in that humid Singaporean heat without venturing too far from home. When you visit the property, check the facilities and see for yourself how many other families are using them. After all, they could be your new neighbours.
Singapore plans for more foreign workers
Singapore may be currently conquering the charts in terms of expat quality of life but it certainly isn’t resting on its laurels. Keen to strengthen its position as a global business power and an attractive choice for professional, career-minded expats, the Singaporean government has planned to open even more international schools. In fact, according to a recent report, Singapore is preparing to entice more foreign workers into the country over the next 15 years specifically and a big part of that plan is to provide more international schools to educate expat children.
It’s estimated that Singapore’s 5.6m population looks set to grow by approximately 30 per cent by 2030. Much of this expected increase is likely to come from foreign workers, encouraged to enter the country to help balance the current slowing birth rate and ageing population. As a result, the Economic Development Board has announced to current international schools – and to those that might be interested in setting up a new one – that new, 30-year lease sites for these facilities are now on offer.
Education choices for expat families in Singapore
The demand for international schools in Singapore is intrinsically linked to the expat community – local Singaporeans are not permitted to attend international primary schools. The local schools are famously intensely academic, with little focus on the arts and the majority of lessons taught in Mandarin, and as a result most expats forego this system.
There are currently 83 international schools and kindergartens in Singapore that operate in English, offering close to 60,000 school places. It’s fairly straightforward to get a place for your children in a decent school – Singapore is renowned for having one of the most successful educational systems in the world, with a selection of schools such as Tanglin Trust and Dulwich College coming highly recommended on expat forums.
Some institutions have long waiting lists and it is always advisable to apply early for your greatest chance of success, but fortunately many of the schools have a large capacity, some with over 3,000 students. And, with a boost in the population expected, Singapore’s forward-looking policy on opening up the market for extra international schools will help minimise the competitive scrabble for places.
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Information correct at time of publication