Singapore appears to be drawing in more and more expatriates due to its comfortable, affluent and stable environment. However, often, as an expatriate, you will find that working in Singapore can be quite different from your home country, especially if you are from a country where there is a distinct work-life balance in place, such as Australia or New Zealand.
Working Culture in Singapore
In Singapore, it is important for an expatriate to understand the working culture before starting work to avoid getting off on the wrong foot with superiors and colleagues. For many Singaporeans, working is an integral part of their lives and it is not rare to find Singaporeans, and even expatriates, spending most of their waking hours in the office. The working hours for many jobs in Singapore are typically between 9am to 5pm or 10am to 6pm, the concept of working overtime (with or without extra pay) has become quite a social norm in the working world. The idea of working after hours is quite apparent for those amongst the upper echelons of the company, such as those with managerial positions.
Despite the fact that employees sometimes leave the office later than their official working hours, most companies do expect their staff to adhere to punctuality when it comes to clocking in. However, this may not be the case for some companies, who may be willing to allow a later reporting time for those clocking in long hours. The best way to avoid any misunderstanding about the issue of time is to of course clear it with your superior right at the start of your contract.
Another thing that one should note about the working culture in Singapore is the formality that is expected in most companies. Any complaints or issues to be raised are expected to go through the proper channel, i.e. through the human resources department. However, this is not a blanket rule as some companies do adopt an open-door policy, and employees are given the opportunity to raise any issues with their superiors. It is also not common to address superiors by their first name in Singapore. But again, it is to be noted that some companies and employers may be comfortable with a first name basis relationship.
Popular Industries for Expatriates
One of the most popular industries that attracts many expatriates is the banking and finance industry. As Singapore is considered to be Asia’s financial hub, many international banks, such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of America, amongst others, have decided to set up shop on the island.
Another area that has seen a surge in expatriates over the years is the research and development (R&D) industry. With Singapore’s aim to move forth in the varying R&D field, which includes biomedical and pharmaceutical industries, the country has invested millions of dollars to develop this industry, including tapping in on highly skilled foreign researchers and developers to assist in its goals.
Other industries such as consultancy, communications and media, healthcare and education have also seen a steady growth of expatriates within them.
Average Salaries for Expatriates
The salary packages for expatriates in Singapore are quite lucrative in comparison to many other Southeast Asian countries. Generally, in order to be an expatriate in Singapore, you would have to secure a proper working permit from the Ministry of Manpower. The working permit would have its own salary requirements to ensure the hiring company pays a fair salary.
For those who are considered highly skilled expatriates, i.e. those who are in managerial positions and above, they would have to be awarded an Employment Pass (EP), which would require a basic salary of at least SGD $3,000 per month. Generally, highly skilled expatriates with years of experience would earn an average salary of approximately SGD $5,000 per month upwards. For those in the mid-skill employment, such as nurses and those in the healthcare sector, the average salary earned would be around SGD $2,500 per month.
Some expatriates, especially those in higher positions, may even be offered housing and transport as part of their salary packages. As this is not a requirement by the government of Singapore, the company may choose to throw in these additional benefits to attract foreign talent to work for them.