Working as an Expat in Singapore

In this year’s HSBC Expat Explorer survey, Singapore has been rated as one of the most desirable places in the world to move to, second only to Switzerland for delivering an enjoyable quality of life. While the multi-cultural lifestyle and a often crop up as some of the most appealing aspects of life in Singapore, the small island at the southern tip of Malay peninsula has a great deal more that attracts expats.
Not only can it offer good healthcare and give children a high-quality education, it is a country recognised for its lively social scene and culture. Plus, having been a British colony until the 1960s, it means that British expats are able to find it much easier to integrate into their new communities.
However, it’s not as easy to move to Singapore as it used to be. From September 1st 2012, professionals wanting to bring their family with them will have to earn at least $4,000 (approximately £2,000) a month to “sponsor the stay” of their respective spouses and children in Singapore.
By increasing the salary limit, the government will ease pressure on its social infrastructure, allowing its own citizens access to employment opportunities.
It’s about balance, the government has explained, as it wishes to remain an international hotspot for the world’s talent.
“We continue to welcome highly skilled foreign professionals who wish to bring their dependants to stay with them,” the government stated.
Other interesting changes being put in place include certain workers being unable to bring their parents-in-law (known as P1 pass holders). The suggestion is that this should be based on the salary of a foreign professional.
“Singapore has become a victim of its own success,” a British expat was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying.
“It has done so well at attracting foreign talent to the country it now has the problem of too many wanting to relocate here. This also leaves it in the enviable position of being able to cherry-pick the best foreign workers.”
However, while there are many attractive draws to Singapore, it is the prospect of lucrative career opportunities that has encouraged many people to set up a new life there. While the country may lack physical scale, this is more than made up for with global clout. As one of the planet’s major commercial hubs, it is a key centre for finance and technology. Singapore has a highly-developed, knowledge-based economy with a major focus on importing and exporting goods, with major sectors including electronics, oil and gas, medical, IT and shipping.
This impressive productivity has helped Singapore to recover quickly from the worldwide economic recession, with its GDP growing year-on-year since 2010. And although the global economy has again experienced a slowdown more recently, the country is still expecting modest growth in 2015.
Much of this growth has been helped with the introduction of foreign expertise and, with the promise of high wages and low taxes (in 2013, more than half of the expats surveyed by HSBC earned more than 200,000SGD – about £97,000), it is easy to see the temptation.
However, while there are more than 1.3m expats currently working in Singapore – most working in finance, accountancy, sciences and digital media – these enticing packages are not as widely available as they once were.
In November 2014 it was revealed that the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM) introduced much stricter and meticulous assessment of those hoping to live and work in Singapore. Before granting these passes, the Ministry of Manpower will now consider the salary, education, unique skills and merits of bringing a foreign worker into the Singapore business environment much closer.
The Singapore government also recently introduced the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) scheme, in response to Singaporeans’ concern about losing job opportunities to foreign workers. The FCF means that jobs will now be open to Singaporeans for 14 days before being offered to potential expats. However, after this advertising period, the firm can hire the most qualified candidate, regardless of nationality.
That said, in the past year, MOM approved 291 of 325 applications from foreign workers, so this is far from disastrous news. There are also still a great many opportunities to find jobs – with many positions advertised online and in the ‘Recruit’ section of Singapore’s English newspaper, The Straits Times.
Starting a new life in Singapore might be slightly trickier than it was once, but for those that are successful, the working and lifestyle benefits are as seductive as ever.
If you are considering a move to Singapore, Cadogan Tate will assist you every step of the way – from your first enquiry to unpacking at your new home, we are here to help and advise you.
Information correct at time of publication.