Expat salaries and packages in Asia declining in value

Published:  8 Jul at 6 PM
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Tagged: Canada, China, Hong Kong
Once the darling of expat professionals, Asia is losing its shine as the value of Singapore and Hong Kong rewards decline.

The latest survey of expat salaries worldwide has revealed that, although Hong Kong is still top of the tree for expats wanting to advance their careers, Singapore wins out as regards lifestyle. Middle management positions in Hong Kong command pay packages of around HK$2,070,000, a drop in real terms from 2015 even although the city’s ranking moved up from 5th to 4th. The reason for the decline in monetary rewards comes because of a shift in the way expat salaries are calculated. Previously, salaries for short-term assignments were based on home-country salaries rather than the less lucrative permanent wage structures now on offer.

Another reason for the change is that overseas companies with offices in Asian countries are now tending towards employing more expats from other Asian countries which operate the permanent salary structure using local salaries as a starting point. An increasing number of multinational companies based in mainland China and Taiwan are opening branches in Hong Kong, resulting in a third of all expat professionals working in the city being natives of these two countries.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, expat salaries are now at their lowest point since 2011, with the city-state now ranking 9th in Asia as regards expat pay packages. A typical middle-management salary is now around S$323,100, eight per cent down from its level in 2014.
According to a spokesperson from ECA International, expat payment standards for expat staff in Singapore have veered over the past decade towards host-based packages inclduing reductions in base salaries, allowances, retirement plans and incentives.

According to the survey, the costliest elements of expat packages are education and housing, with the new method of calculating salaries starting with host country wages as a base point and adding in school fees and housing allowances afterwards. Given that Singapore is an expensive place to live, especially if there are children involved, the fall in total benefits may well act as a disincentive for upwardly mobile expat professionals.
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