‘Dramatic’ pay drop for expatriates in Singapore and Malaysia: Survey

Despite having low personal tax rates, Singapore remains one of the 20 most expensive countries in terms of the cost of employing expatriates, says ECA International.
The Straits Times

Employing expatriates in Singapore was significantly less costly in 2017 as compared to a year ago but the nation still ranks among the most expensive for international companies to send their employees to, based on a survey by data company ECA International.

Findings from ECA’s annual MyExpatriate Market Pay survey, published on Monday (May 28), revealed that the average cost of employing an expatriate in Singapore has contracted markedly by more than S$16,000 ($12,000) from 2016 to 2017.

The survey polled more than 290 companies, covering 160 countries and over 10,000 international assignees. It looks at pay levels for expatriates around the world, including information on benefits, allowances, salary calculation methods and tax treatment.

When it comes to determining the cost of an expatriate package, companies need to take into account cash salary, benefits – such as accommodation, international schools, utilities or cars – and tax, according to ECA.

The company noted that a typical annual compensation and benefits package for an expatriate middle manager in Singapore is currently valued at S$298,600, a drop from S$315,264 in 2016.

ECA International’s regional director for Asia, Lee Quane, said: “Singapore saw one of the most dramatic falls in expatriate costs in Asia, with the average pay package falling USD 12,450.”

He attributed the decrease to lower salaries being provided as well as the fall in the costs of various benefits.

“However, Singapore remains one of the 20 most expensive countries in terms of the cost of employing expatriate staff, despite having very low personal tax rates.”

Meanwhile, its neighbour across the straits, Malaysia, experienced a greater plunge of S$23,000 to the average expatriate pay package, allowing the country to remain as the least expensive to send expatriates to.

Japan tops the global list – based on countries which have cities appearing in the top 40 of The Global Financial Centres Index – as the most expensive place to employ expatriates.

ECA International

“The average cost of employing an expatriate at a middle manager level is now USD 150,868, less than half of what it would cost to send an expatriate to Japan,” said Quane.

“As Malaysia has much cheaper accommodation costs than its Asian neighbours and relatively low levels of tax, the country sits at the bottom of the rankings as the least expensive city included in the rankings.”