Expats in Asia-Pacific, including Singapore, highest paid in the world: HSBC

The lunchtime crowd at Raffles Place. Expatriates in the Asia Pacific are among the highest paid in the world, according to a survey.
The lunchtime crowd at Raffles Place. Expatriates in the Asia Pacific are among the highest paid in the world, according to a survey. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Expatriates in the Asia-Pacific are among the highest paid in the world, with Singapore in the top five in the region for disposable income and savings, according to HSBC's latest Expat Explorer survey.

The region's appeal for professionals is set to increase further with the formalisation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), HSBC added.

The eight edition of the Expat Explorer survey was completed by 21,950 expats from 198 countries through an online questionnaire in March, April and May 2015 and released on Monday (Dec 21).

The study found that the annual average salary for expats across the Asia-Pacific is US$126,000 (S$178,000), the highest compared to the global average of US$104,000.

South-east Asian countries - including Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore - along with China and Hong Kong, stand out for offering expats the chance to save more money and enjoy greater disposable income.

According to the survey, 65 per cent of expats in Singapore report greater levels of disposable income (compared to a global average of 57 per cent), 60 per cent are able to save more (global average is 52 per cent) and 20 per cent say they have been able to buy additional property as a result of moving (global average is 17 per cent).

The ability to save more, enjoy greater disposable income or acquire real estate assets are all important considerations for expats moving to a new country.

Said Mr Matthew Colebrook, HSBC Singapore's head of retail banking and wealth management: "Managing finances is a key draw-card for living abroad, whether that be in helping to ascend the housing ladder or opening up lifestyle choices for later life. However, it does come with complexities and often means expats need to consider financial planning not in one, but two or more countries."

Apart from the financial incentives, South-east Asia's appeal will be heightened as mobile professionals will be able to access a wider job market via the formalisation of the AEC, said HSBC.

The AEC - which comes into effect on Dec 31 - aims to integrate South-east Asia as an economic region by reducing barriers to cross-border trade and investment, and allowing freer flow of professionals to work in other markets in the region.

Said Mr Colebrook: "Asia offers some of the most rewarding job opportunities, allowing expats to experience and learn skills while at the same time, boost their standard of living and raise lifestyle aspirations. As the Asean countries move closer to economic cohesion, skilled workers will be needed to raise the region's competitiveness and help companies and sectors to offset locational skill shortages or mismatches."

Singaporeans are one of the most globally mobile workforces in the region, said HSBC, with some 212,500 citizens living overseas as of June 2015, according to the Department of Statistics.

Based on the sample of respondents surveyed in the latest edition of the Expat Explorer, expats in the Asia-Pacific originate from Australia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, United Kingdom and the United States. They work in industries such as education, marketing, banking, health, engineering, telecommunications, manufacturing and hospitality.