How to Move to Singapore for a Tech Job
For the fourth year running, HSBC’s 2018 Expat Explorer Survey has ranked Singapore the best destination for expats. The city-state consistently wows people with its booming economy, personal safety, earning potential, career opportunities, and overall quality of life. If you’re dreaming of a career in Southeast Asia’s hottest hub, here’s how to move to Singapore for a tech job.
Find your dream tech job in Singapore
You can bet there’s no shortage of exciting jobs available in Singapore right now—especially if you feel at home on the cutting edge of technology.
The tech and startup scene in Singapore has expanded explosively over the years, and the city has been rising through the ranks to become one of the top startup ecosystems in the world. The 2017 Global Startup Ecosystem Report by Startup Genome placed Singapore at #12 overall in the world (up from #17 in 2012). Also in 2017, Nestpick ranked Singapore the #1 career destination for startup talent. That puts the city ahead of Helsinki, San Francisco, and Berlin.
Singapore may be a world leader in innovation and digital connectivity, but even this tiny tech juggernaut is not immune to the effects of the global tech talent shortage. To bridge the skills gap and stay ahead of the curve, top employers in the city, from leading startups to universities, are forming a united front in the hunt for talent.
If you’re an experienced tech professional, this is where things get really interesting for you—now is the perfect time to take on a life-changing career challenge in the world’s most tech-savvy country.
The bulk of the action is in fields like cybersecurity and AI, where the talent scarcity is most keenly felt. As a result, the offers are correspondingly juicy. Read more here:
Have a look at the best Singapore tech jobs on Jobbatical.
Get a Singapore work pass/permit
Once you’ve secured a job offer in Singapore, and if the offer meets the salary requirements (S$3,600 a month for professionals, managers, and executives), you’ll be eligible for a Singapore Employment Pass (commonly referred to as a work visa).
Conveniently enough, your new employer will apply for your Employment Pass on your behalf before you arrive in Singapore.
If you have an Employment Pass and your new job pays at least S$6,000 a month, you can bring family members to live with you in Singapore.
Figure out your cost of living in Singapore
It’s no secret that Singapore has a reputation for being an expensive city to live in. In 2018, a research report by Expatistan called Singapore the 10th most expensive city in the world to rent an apartment.
Indeed, the price tag for renting a home can be quite hefty. The city’s rent-to-income ratio (the percentage of your income you can expect to spend on housing) has been estimated at 43.1%, making it more pricey than many major cities. The good news? That’s still more affordable than, for example, London, Hong Kong, Dubai or New York.
The other good news is that 73% of the Expat Explorer Survey’s respondents said they earn more in Singapore than in their country of origin, reporting a 42% increase in annual income. 65% of the expats polled also said they have more disposable income in Singapore than they did back home.
With some research and preparation, you can live comfortably—and thrive—in Singapore. Because the third bit of good news is that aside from housing, many other necessities are quite affordable.
Here are some examples of the cost of living in Singapore for reference (source: Numbeo, as of Nov 13, 2018):
- Monthly costs for a four-person family: S$3,694.10 (€2,377.46) without rent
- Monthly costs for a single person: S$1,026.79 (€660.83) without rent
- A meal at an inexpensive restaurant: S$8.00
- A three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant: S$50.00
- A one-way ticket on local transport: S$1.67
- Average monthly net salary: S$4,110.40 (find more salary information at MoneySmart and ExpatFocus)
- 1-bedroom apartment in City Centre: S$2,493.16 (find more rent information on the 99.co blog)
- 1-bedroom apartment outside of City Centre: S$1,383.80
Depending on how much you’ll be earning, you can figure out what kind of lifestyle to expect in Singapore. Don’t be daunted by any potential changes to your routine. There are plenty of small adjustments you can make without compromising on your quality of life.
5 tips for living affordably in Singapore
- Use public transport. Considerably cheaper than owning a car, Singapore’s super smooth public transport system is the smartest, most affordable way to get around. Taxi rides are pretty reasonable too.
- Eat at hawker centers. A true win-win. Hawker centers (food courts) are the most affordable and the tastiest way to eat in Singapore, with an incredible array of mouthwatering options available.
- If you enjoy alcoholic beverages, consider drinking less. Alcohol is relatively costly in Singapore. Been looking for an incentive to cut back? This could be it.
- Live with housemates. With property prices being the single biggest expense in Singapore, consider renting with a friend or finding a housemate. It cuts costs and comes with a built-in social life.
- Buy produce at wet markets. For cooking at home, get your fruits and veggies from one of Singapore’s bustling markets. It’s not just wallet-friendly—it’s also a cultural experience in and of itself.
Find a home in Singapore
We’ve already covered that rent in Singapore is relatively expensive, especially in central areas. But with some research, you should be able to find options that work for you within your budget.
The city is divided into five regions and 28 districts. Your choice of neighborhood will have a strong impact on your lifestyle, from commute times to living expenses. Some of the main factors you might need to weigh against each other are:
- Rent prices. According to MoneySmart, the average rent in Singapore can vary from around S$2,000 for a 45 m2 (480 Sqft) furnished studio in an affordable area like Newton (city fringe) to S$8,000 for an 85 m2 (900 Sqft) furnished apartment in Orchard (city core). On average, utilities in Singapore cost between S$100 and S$150 per month.
- Transport connections and commute times. The average daily commute time for Singaporeans is 84 minutes, and 25% of people spend more than 2 hours on public transport every day. Longer commutes can mean lower rents, so figure out what your priorities are.
- Atmosphere and immediate surroundings. What do you want to live close to? Good schools, the airport, the seaside? Need to be in the thick of the action? InterNations and ExpatFocus have compiled handy guides to Singapore’s most popular areas for expats. Also, check out Expat Living’s top tips for leasing property in Singapore.
Prefer to buy a home? Expats can buy condominiums, but buying a house with a garden or yard comes with stricter restrictions. For that, you’ll need citizenship or PR status with special approval.
Grow your network and make friends in Singapore
As a popular destination for people from all around the world, Singapore has a thriving expat community and has been ranked as the most welcoming city in the world by a TravelBird study. English is the common language, so you’ll be able to communicate easily enough. Odds are, you’ll even pick up some Singlish along the way.
While some aspects of Singaporean society remain quite conservative (attitudes towards homosexuality, for example, can be more negative than in most Western countries), the city has diversity woven into its very fabric. One of the most multicultural cities on the planet, Singapore boasts a strong sense of community, giving everyone a chance to belong.
If you’re ready to belong somewhere new and take your career to the next level, check out the best tech jobs in Singapore here.