SINGAPORE (May 28): Expatriates in Singapore are now receiving significantly less wages than before, even as the city state remains one of the 20 most expensive countries to employ expat staff in, finds an annual study published by ECA International.

Based on results of the latest MyExpatriate Market Pay survey, the average cost of employing an expat in Singapore has shrunk by over US$12,000 ($16,070) in 2017 compared to the year before, with the value of a typical annual compensation and benefits package for a middle-manager now costing $223,095, down from US$235,545 in 2016.

Lee Quane, Regional Director - Asia for ECA International, says this is due to lower salaries being provided, as well as reduced costs of various benefits such as accommodation, international schools, utilities and cars.

Despite seeing one of the “most dramatic falls” in expatriate costs in Asia, according to Quane, the city state continues to remain among the list of the survey’s 20 most expensive countries in terms of expatriate staff employment costs – despite “very low personal tax rates”, in his view.

Meanwhile, Malaysia remained at the bottom of ECA International’s 40-country list after seeing an even bigger drop of US$17,188 to its average expatriate pay package in 2017 from the year before.

The average cost of employing a middle-manager level expatriate in Malaysia is now US$150,868, less than half of what it would cost to send an expatriate at Japan, which is has the most expensive expatriate pay package for 2017 for both Asia Pacific, and globally, at an average of US$356,224 per annum.

Quane attributes Malaysia’s dip in expatriate employment costs to much cheaper accommodation costs as compared to its Asian neighbours on top of relatively-low levels of tax.

While China, too, saw a US$6,000 fall in its average pay package of expatriates, it remains the fourth most expensive country in the world among the survey’s rankings with an annual average of US$276,387.

ECA International nonetheless observes a continued narrowing of the gap between expatriates in Hong Kong – where the average expatriate pay package rose to US$268,514 per annum in 2017 after hitting a five-year low in 2016 – and those in Mainland China, where average pay packages have fallen as a result of a strengthening dollar against the yuan.   

Elsewhere, the UK has become significantly cheaper for companies to send staff from abroad, while Argentina has seen a big jump in the average expatriate package, with most of the increase attributed to cash salary.

“Argentina has seen high salary increases across the board over the past twelve months due to recent presidential and economic policies coming into fruition. There were pay increases in other parts of South America too, with cash salaries for expatriates in Brazil increasing by over US$3,000,” notes Quane.