The Cost of Living in Singapore
Singapore is one of the most liveable cities in the world, consistently landing the top spots in global rankings year after year for offering a better quality of life for its residents. The idea of moving to Singapore and living on this island nation and experiencing its unique way of life can prove quite alluring. Before you accept the assignment and contact the movers, think about the cost of living in Singapore as an expat first. What are the most and least expensive essentials you need to splurge or save on before you move to Singapore?
Life in Singapore: An Expensive City
Annual surveys done by Mercer, The Economist and HSBC, among others, always show Singapore in the top five spots when it comes to cost of living. In Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2018, four cities out of the five most expensive cities in the world are in Asia, with Hong Kong first on the list, followed by Tokyo in second, Singapore in fourth, while Seoul, Shanghai, and Beijing occupy the fifth, seventh and ninth spots, respectively.
Singapore's robust and competitive economy makes it one of the richest countries in the world. A leader in technological innovation, infrastructure, financing, education, it's also known for its zero-tolerance to corruption. This attracts a high number of investors, students, foreign workers, and their families.
The Singapore Government website agrees that living in Singapore can be quite costly for expats. It explains in detail through infographics how the prices of basic goods and services in Singapore compare against those mentioned in the surveys. The website also points out that the Singapore dollar has appreciated against the United States dollar through the years, and as such, currency fluctuations do affect expatriates who get their income in foreign currencies. Use the handy Cost of Living calculator on the Contact Singapore website to find out how much a working adult will need for housing, transportation, health insurance and medical care, food, clothing, childcare, and schooling.
Living in Singapore can also prove to be quite a shock when it comes to space as the entire country (the main island of Pulau Jurong and 63 islets) is only 721 square kilometers. With a current population of 5.6 million people, that means around 7,800 people living per square kilometer. Thus, factoring in the cost of housing should be the first on your list. If your relocation package includes housing and transport/car allowances, as well as education and childcare, the issue of accommodation costs may not be as worrisome.
Even if you don't have any housing allowances, it's better to look into various residential options and make a thorough comparison to find what is most suitable for your needs.
Prepared to Pay? Houses, Condominiums, and Apartments
With only so much land, Singapore is dotted with skyscrapers like many other highly populated cities. The cost of housing in Singapore depends on a lot of factors like the location of the property and its proximity to the city. Would you prefer to live within or nearer downtown, or is it acceptable to commute and take public transport to work? Other things to consider are the age of the buildings and its fittings such as plumbing and electricals, availability of recreational facilities like a pool or gym, and space you need to accommodate your family and furnishings.
Space commands a premium price tag in Singapore. A four-bedroom bungalow in a landed property (garden included) can cost north of SGD 25,000 per month. Prime locations, especially those closest to the business district or with open spaces can rent as much as SGD 18,000 a month, while terraced and semi-detached houses may go for around SGD 9,000 to SGD 15,000 monthly.
For more modestly-sized options, there are condominiums which are popular among expatriate families since these offer additional amenities like a swimming pool or clubhouse, a children's playground, and even a gym. The average monthly rent can go anywhere from SGD 7,000 to as high as SGD 15,000 especially those nearer the city center. Those that are within a short walking distance of public transportation like bus stops or an MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) station will have an advantage but will certainly cost more.
By comparison, executive condominiums offer lower monthly fees while possessing similar facilities as private condominiums. An executive condominium or EC is similar to a condo unit in many ways except that an EC is subsidized by the government and thus bound by certain regulations and restrictions when it comes to rental and ownership.
Also similar to condominiums are private apartments, with the exception of other amenities. The apartment buildings also tend to be older since private developers have veered towards condominiums instead.
The More Affordable Option: HDB Flats
Compared to public housing in other countries, HDB flats in Singapore can be quite spacious, with one-bedroom to three-bedroom options available. Rent is considerably more affordable for an HDB flat versus private apartments and condominiums, with three-bedroom versions near the city center going for around SGD 3,500. Depending on the location, flats farther from the business district usually go down to about SGD 2,500 to SGD 3,200. Do note that some older HDB flats may not be air-conditioned, and in the notorious heat and humidity of Singapore, you will definitely want to have one installed.
About 82 percent of Singapore locals live in HDB flats which are within easy distance of banks, wet markets, hawker centers, post offices, local schools, clinics, and shopping malls. Minus the swimming pool and fitness facilities, HDB blocks form an entire neighborhood that makes it easy to adjust to the local way of life.
Single expats in Singapore usually opt to share an HDB flat, condominium or apartment with other people to bring down the rental costs. Many opt to cook at home with occasional visits to a nice restaurant for special occasions. Get more information about HDB flats at http://www.hdb.gov.sg.
School Fees and Child Care
Students from Singapore are ranked among the best in the world, most recently in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2016 results which measure aptitudes in maths, reading and science. PISA is run by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) every three years.
Expats and their families relocating to Singapore need not worry about the choice of schools. The country has many public schools which are subsidized by the government, and private schools which are also called international schools. As education standards in Singapore are very high, you can't go wrong with either one. However, expect to pay higher fees when enrolling your child as an international student. A majority of expats cite child care and school fees as one of their major expenses while residing in Singapore.
Preschools are run by the private sector as well as international schools and child care centers, and many are duly registered with the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE). Classes can be half-day while some offer a full day program, with costs ranging from SGD 800 to SGD 1,500 for half-day care, while full days can go up to as much as SGD 3,500. Families with young children often avail the services of a live-in domestic helper to help with childcare and everyday household chores.
The local school system in Singapore follows a curriculum approved by the Singapore Ministry of Education while international schools usually adhere to a curriculum more widely accepted like the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. As local schools are supported by the government, fees are much lower than that of international schools but can be just as competitive in terms of quality. Both use English as the primary language of instruction at all levels.
Sending your child to an international school can be expensive in Singapore and can cost anywhere from SGD 2,000 to 4,000 per month. There are also different fees depending on the nationality of the student. The fees are based on whether the student is a Singapore Permanent Resident, a citizen of an ASEAN country or coming from a non-ASEAN country. Costs increase for secondary and pre-university levels. A list of international schools in Singapore can be found on the Contact Singapore website. For more information, visit the Singapore Ministry of Education website at http://www.moe.gov.sg.
Learn more about Healthcare in Singapore.