Pay package for mid-level expats in S'pore up 6%: Poll

The average annual pay package for expatriate middle managers in Singapore rose by US$13,163, or 5.9 per cent, in 2018 from a year earlier to US$236,258 (S$325,900), which included an average cash salary of US$90,170, according to an annual survey by ECA International.

When considering the cost of an expat pay package, companies need to factor in three key elements: the cash salary; benefits such as accommodation, international schools, utilities or cars; and tax, said ECA, which provides information and software for the management and assignment of employees globally.

Expat pay packages in Singapore increased across the board last year, with yearly salaries climbing by almost US$5,000 while benefits went up by US$6,400 on average, said Mr Lee Quane, regional director for Asia at ECA International, in a press statement yesterday.

The firm's MyExpatriate Market Pay survey tracks the pay levels of expats around the world, including information on benefits, allowances, salary calculation methods and tax treatment. The findings enable companies relocating staff to benchmark their expats' actual salaries against the market.

Singapore had the 19th-highest pay packages globally and the ninth highest in Asia for mid-level expats last year, due to "minimal increases in personal tax and extremely low tax-related costs as compared with most other locations" in ECA's rankings, said Mr Quane.

He added: "This is good news for companies with employees currently living in Singapore as the relatively high cash salary, benefits and low taxes result in less expense for employers when relocating staff to the country."

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong dropped one place to sixth globally, and fourth in the region, with the average expat pay package rising US$7,902 to US$276,417, including an average salary of US$86,984.

Hong Kong's increase was largely due to a yearly salary increase of about US$1,500 and a more than US$6,000 bump in benefits, including additional expenses such as school fees or transportation costs.

The benefits offered have always been high, given Hong Kong's attractiveness to companies and expatriates, said Mr Quane.

"Such high costs in expatriate-level accommodation, education in international schools and other expenses result in Hong Kong being significantly more expensive than most other locations," he added.

Meanwhile, Japan is no longer the most expensive location in the world, after being overtaken in the rankings by the United Kingdom.

Japan dropped to second place globally, despite an increase of more than US$30,000 to its average expat pay package.

In China, package levels saw a significant rebound last year after falling in 2017. China-based expats took home US$310,204 last year, which was an increase of more than US$33,000 from 2017. This pushed China up one place in the rankings to third globally.

The UK now takes the top spot in the world, primarily due to a 25 per cent jump in the value of benefits.

Mr Quane said: "Although the average UK expat salary rose by US$3,717, the overall increase in the value of an expat pay package jumped by more than US$77,000 from 2017, with the cost of both benefits and personal tax rates rising by markedly large levels. The rise in accommodation costs was mainly responsible due to an increase in housing and rental prices throughout the UK."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2019, with the headline 'Pay package for mid-level expats in S'pore up 6%: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe