Which City Is Better for Expats in 2022: Singapore or Hong Kong?
Some things remain the same. One of them may be the competition between Singapore and Hong Kong to draw top business talent from around the world.
Here is a new look at some of the major elements in this long-running competition, five years after Bloomberg originally published its advice for expats debating which of the two cities to live and work in.
1. Earn and Salary
According to statistics collated by Bloomberg from a 2022 study by recruiting agency Robert Walters Plc, wages for director and chief officer-level roles are more than 60% higher in Hong Kong. The difference in 2017 was almost 25%.
The influence of the national security law and Hong Kong's challenge to retain talent in the face of tight Covid restrictions are two factors contributing to the change.
In spite of stricter visa requirements for white-collar employees, hiring in Singapore has increased. Additionally, income tax is still very low in both locations. The top rate in Singapore for income beyond the first $230,000 is 22%. (All prices have been adjusted to US dollars.) The highest rate in Hong Kong is 17%.
People who choose Hong Kong will require that additional income. According to research by ECA International, it is the most expensive city in the world for expats for the second year in a row. It occupied the No. 2 spot in the rankings in 2017.
In the financial district, a cup of coffee is approximately $5.20, while a liter of milk is about $4.40.
Even though electricity and gasoline cost more in Singapore this year, the city-currency state's weakness kept it in 13th place on the ECA list.
However, according to the 2022 study on global wealth and lifestyle from Julius Baer Group Ltd., be ready to pay more in Singapore for luxury like jewelry, suits, or wine. Even though the country in Southeast Asia only boasts 48 Michelin-starred restaurants, compared to Hong Kong's 71, fine dining is much more expensive.
3. Cost of Real Estate
Expats in both locations choose to rent rather than buy. In either case, housing continues to be the majority of people's biggest living expense.
Rental costs are catching up to notoriously expensive Hong Kong, especially in the central business district, as Singapore reopens and expats return in droves. Delays in supply caused by the pandemic are also having an effect. According to a research from the real estate technology business PropertyGuru Group Ltd., prices for private residences are rising sharply.
According to data from PropertyGuru, a 700 square foot, fully furnished apartment in the heart of Singapore starts at roughly $3,500 per month. A comparable house in Hong Kong will cost you at least $4,000 a month, according to the real estate website Squarefoot.com.hk.
The distinction becomes quite clearer, though, if you're considering purchasing. According to PropertyGuru, a three-bedroom home in one of Singapore's most desirable neighborhoods costs roughly $4.3 million. A comparable property in Hong Kong, which is frequently regarded as the most expensive housing market in the world, will cost you something in the neighborhood of $10.5 million, according to Squarefoot.
4. Best Place for Business and Investment
Compared to five years ago, Singapore has an advantage over Hong Kong in terms of being a destination to conduct business and build wealth.
According to a November Fitch Solutions analysis, the financial hub of Southeast Asia has the lowest business climate risks in the world, followed by Switzerland and Hong Kong.
With the exception of the pandemic outbreak in March 2020, Singapore's benchmark stock index has been less erratic than Hong Kong's over the past five years, fluctuating between minor gains and losses. The Hong Kong Hang Seng Index has fallen over 15 percent over the same time span, including a decrease of more than 6 percent in 2022, while the Straits Times Index has fallen roughly 4 percent since 2017.
5. Owning a Car
The cost of an open category vehicle-ownership permit in Singapore, one of the most expensive countries in the world to drive a car, increased to a record $75,000 in June.
The pricey license is only one component of a campaign to ease gridlock and promote the use of public transportation on the island.
The company's website estimates that an Audi A6 luxury sedan costs at least $219,300 in Singapore. Including the first registration fee and the manufacturer's guarantee for the first five years or 100,000 kilometers, the car will cost about $63,600 in Hong Kong (62,137 miles).
6. Education and Childcare Cost
According to the International Schools Database, the median annual tuition at an international school in Singapore cost $21,000 last year. In Hong Kong, that is equivalent to around $17,000.
The standard of education in Singapore and Hong Kong is "similar," and certain organizations running schools in both cities outperformed the global average for IB marks.
In both cities, domestic "helpers"—usually women from Southeast Asia's less developed regions who also perform household chores like cooking and cleaning—often provide childcare after school. In Singapore, where additional expenses like agency fees may be incurred by employers, these migrant employees receive a monthly pay of roughly $428. Hong Kong's minimum wage is $590 per month, and businesses are also required to give employees meals or a $150 monthly stipend.
Which one would you rather live in?