Singapore and Tokyo are quite similar in many ways – both are large, vibrant Asian cities that are very orderly and clean. Besides language and other small, particular cultural difference, the two provide comparable quality of living standards.
World-class business operations, ample access to public transportation, and a local focus on high-quality food characterise both Tokyo and Singapore.
Both cities tend to be ranked in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world for expatriates, according to the Mercer Cost of Living rankings. Generally speaking, Tokyo is more expensive than Singapore with some occasional exceptions.
Taxation also makes an impact. For foreigners, Japanese income tax is determined by status of residence. Foreigners who have lived in Japan for less then one year (non-residents) are required to pay income tax only on income generated in Japan.
Foreigners who have lived in Japan for more than one year are separated into resident groups, based on how long they have lived in the country. The tax rate is progressive, ranging from 5-40%, and based on a variety of factors including length of residency and income. Visit this site for a more detailed guide.
The Japanese Yen is the equivalent of .012 Singapore dollars, so prices will be in much higher numbers, but the amount of money needed for a parallel quality of life is quite similar. You would need around $8,200 (671,000¥) in Singapore to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with 580,000¥ ($7,000) in Tokyo.
For the purposes of this article, cost comparisons will be in Singapore dollars.
One of the first things that will make an impact is the way the differences between living styles change expenses. Singapore offers a diversity of character when it comes to housing and neighbourhood structures – which means a decent amount of variety when it comes to rent prices.
Location, square footage, and amenities all have a variable affect on rates. It is not the same case in Tokyo, where options are limited, and large condominiums or tiny local apartments are the two main options.
The larger apartments come at a premium. Whether in the city centre or in a neighbourhood farther out, Tokyo commands about a 10-15% increase over Singapore costs. A furnished two-bedroom apartment will cost around $4500 a month in Tokyo, and $3200 a month in Singapore. The same sized flat in a less desirable area will go for around $3300 and S$2800 respectively.
However, Tokyo can be far more economical for small flats. For a studio in the city, the cost in Tokyo is around $2600, compared to $3100 in Singapore. Farther outside the city, the change is even more drastic – $1600 in Tokyo and $2200 in Singapore.
Public transportation in Tokyo is the most prevalent way that people travel throughout the city. However, it is significantly more expensive than the cost for services in Singapore.
The equivalent of a monthly train pass will cost around $140 in Tokyo or $80 in Singapore. Taxi rides are an even greater increase, with a standard 5km ride costing around $40 in the Japanese city, while the same trip in Singapore will only cost around $11.
That said – it is likely that these costs are reflective of governmental incentives or disincentives for car ownership. Since automotive production is such in important industry in Japan, prices are low as the government encourages people to buy.
A mid range mid sized sedan will only cost around $35,000 in Tokyo. Because Singapore prefers to limit car ownership due to limited space and petrol resources, car prices and fees add up quickly. That same car will cost closer to $135,000 in Singapore.
If you are seeking to relocate to either Singapore or Japan with school age children, education expenses will be of significant concern. You should be sure to keep this in mind when negotiating your salary and relocation package.
Most expatriate families send their children to private international schools, which provide high level education that meets qualifications for most international certifications, including the IB, British GCE, O and A levels, and American Advanced Placement curriculum.
Though there is some range in each city, all this comes with a significant price tag. In 2016, a new student beginning in high school (grades 9-12) at the very well regarded Singapore American School would entail a $51,000 tuition fee per year – not including books or activity fees.
However, Singapore does have an excellent public schooling program, with local students consistently ranking quite high in worldwide performance measures. Many expatriate parents, especially those who are planning long-term stays, find it the best balance of price and value to send their children to local schools.
An added benefit is that their child is also likely to develop a strong understanding of Mandarin Chinese, Malay, or Tamil – the other official languages of Singapore besides English.
Tokyo pricing, while slightly more reasonable, is still fairly remarkable. A high school student in the Tokyo International School faces tuition of about $29,000. Japanese international schools also offer the opportunity to learn some of the local language.
If your child is already fluent, a local school may also be a good option for them, but it may be hard for them to follow along without some previous understanding.
Food and Drinks
Compared to Tokyo, alcohol is expensive in Singapore. The business and social culture of the Japanese city means that a cold beer or a bottle of sake is cheap and easy to come by. However, other than hard beverages, Tokyo’s cost for food in restaurants is similar to that of Singapore.
Both cities offer inexpensive, mid-range, and high-end options that are usually within a $5-10 overage of one another. Produce, however, especially those foods more common to Westerners than local Japanese – like bananas and squash – is almost 75% more expensive in Tokyo.
Some other offhand sundries and items you might want to consider (prices found via Numbeo):
|Pack of cigarettes||$5.52||$13.00|
|Local Cheese (1kg)||$22.16||$23.01|
|Summer dress in a chain store||$46.67||$60.03|
|One hour tennis court rental||$19.91||$15.01|