Singapore is no stranger to foreign enterprise; it’s been luring skilled expats with lucrative packages for decades. Even with government efforts to reduce the reliance on foreign workers, there continues to be a demand for qualified expats.
Many of the expats who find work in Singapore are high earners who benefit from relatively low taxes and high disposable income. Expats are advised to always negotiate for inclusive employment contracts, but prospective jobseekers in Singapore should be aware that comprehensive employment packages are increasingly reserved for those in the most senior positions.
More often these days, companies are looking for foreigners who are willing to accept a lucrative salary without transportation, housing and education allowances. So, again, we recommend expats negotiate for salaries high enough to cover all bases, including rent, utilities, medical insurance, school fees, transport and so on.
Job market in Singapore
Expats, especially those working in Singapore's financial industries, shouldn’t struggle to find a job in the city-state's vibrant and rapidly growing economy. The bustling city-state has emerged as Southeast Asia’s premier banking and finance hub.
Many international corporations have headquarters or regional bases here, as both the infrastructure and physical location make Singapore an ideal platform to reach the nearby Asian markets. Those prospective expats who work for one of these large multinational institutions should therefore consider transferring by way of their firm and potentially keep all existing benefits that they enjoy in their home countries.
Many of the available jobs are still mainly in the financial sector with wealth-management firms, financial institutions, investment banks, insurance agencies and foreign exchange companies. There are also increasing opportunities in other areas of business, such as management, IT, logistics, pharmaceuticals, education, energy, construction and hospitality.
Finding a job in Singapore
A good starting point for expats and a helpful aid in the job search would be one of the countless employment agencies in Singapore. Employment agencies require the least legwork when it comes to securing a job. The biggest expat-recruiting industries are clustered around the technology, finance and logistics sectors, with engineering, IT and management skills particularly in demand.
Apart from using agencies and recruiters, new arrivals will do well to search online. Employers will often advertise new vacancies on various web portals and sites such as LinkedIn or on industry-specific portals and forums.
- The Ministry of Manpower in Singapore provides comprehensive information on work passes, employment practices, workplace safety and health.
- JobsBank is a portal managed by Workforce Singapore that lists job opportunities and provides career guidance.
Work culture in Singapore
Expats moving to Singapore for work should be prepared to take the work-hard-play-hard philosophy to heart. Singaporeans and expats who’ve been in the city-state for a while are used to working to tight deadlines in an often high-pressure work environment. On the flip side, these high-pressure environments typically go hand in hand with astronomical salaries, allowing expats to enjoy the top-shelf lifestyle that Singapore offers.
There tends to be a strict hierarchy in Singaporean workplaces. Those who are more senior in age and position are afforded great respect, and their decisions won’t be openly questioned by those lower down in the pecking order. Expats may also find there are more rules in the workplace than they might be used to.
As Singapore is such a diverse destination, the workplace is sure to be filled with all sorts of cultures and ethnicities. Those new to Lion City should try to learn about the main cultural groups of Singapore and their traditions to ensure harmony in the workplace and that they don’t offend their co-workers.
What do expats say about the work culture in Singapore?
"From a personal standpoint, I would say that the work culture is better here. We follow a 5 days per week schedule with normal working hours of 40–45 hours per week. Over the years, there have been very few instances of us having had to work late into the night or work on weekends. The work-life balance is something my husband and I have grown to love and appreciate greatly!" Learn more about moving to and working in Singapore in our interview with Indian expat Megha.
►For more on business etiquette and work culture in Singapore see Doing Business in Singapore
Are you an expat living in Singapore?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Singapore. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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