Thousands of people from all over the world, especially Southeast Asian and Asian nations, flock to Singapore looking for better job opportunities. With a strong economy and political stability, Singapore promises jobs with much higher salaries than what people can usually earn back home.
However, to work in Singapore, foreigners need to have a valid work pass. To obtain a work pass, foreigners need to be offered a job in Singapore first. Depending on the salary, industry, and quota, foreigners or their employers may apply for a specific pass accordingly.
Types of Work Passes
Below are some of the work passes that foreigners may apply for:
- Employment Pass (EP): For professionals, managers and executives earning at least $4,500 a month (S$5,000 from 1 Sept 2022 onwards).
- Personalised Employment Pass (PEP): For high-earning existing Employment Pass (EP) holders earning at least $12,000 a month or overseas foreign professionals earning more than $18,000 a month.
- Entrepass: Foreign entrepreneurs who are keen to start and operate a business in Singapore may apply for this pass.
- S Pass: For mid-level skilled workers, earning at least $2,500 a month (S$3,000 from 1 Sept 2022 onwards). However, there is a quota for each Singapore-based company to apply for this pass.
As Singapore protects its people from unemployment, it is getting more and more difficult for foreigners to get a job in Singapore. In recent years, the government has tightened its immigration policy and is looking to improve the quality of talent that enters the country.
To be able to get a job in Singapore, foreigners need to have the skill that Singapore lacks. At current times, these may include IT, F&B, and medical workers. For more advice on work pass application, seek help from immigration experts – Immigration@SG (IASG).
Companies in Singapore
There are a total of more than 500,000 businesses in Singapore as at July 2022. This is about a 1:8 ratio of businesses to residents in Singapore. Of which, 37,000 are international companies from countries like the USA, the UK, Germany and India. There are about 7,000 MNCs in Singapore. Top MNCs include Alphabet Inc (USA) aka Google, Schneider Electric (France), and GSK (UK).
Work Culture in Singapore
In general, people in Singapore work an average of 40-45 hours per week. This makes Singapore the most overworked country in APAC. Depending on the type of employment, level of seniority, and industry, overtime work may be expected as well. Compensation for overtime is compulsory for low to mid-skilled workers but not for those in managerial positions. Desk-bound workers usually work Monday to Friday while shift workers’ working days vary, depending on their jobs. For example, retail workers may work retail hours anywhere from 9am to 10pm on weekends while security workers may work overnight. Tardiness is not tolerated in general, although some companies may allow grace periods of 10 – 15 mins from official start time.
Bonuses, incentives, and allowances also vary in each company. The number of annual leave also differs in each company from 7 to 21 days but there is a standard of up to 14 days of medical leave and 60 days hospitalisation leave entitled to an employee each year. The 60 days of paid hospitalisation leave includes the 14 days paid outpatient sick leave entitlement. Depending on the company, there might be other non-monetary benefits such as paid lunches, festive dinners, team bonding activities, pantry snacks and gym memberships.
Due to the many international companies setting up offices in Singapore, the work culture varies in each company. An American company may encourage personal achievements in employees and being outspoken is seen as ambitious while a local Singaporean company may not accept these behaviours. Singaporeans are more likely to go straight home after work or meet their own friends for dinner while foreigners would love to socialise and participate in events to meet new people. This gives the impression that Singaporeans are unfriendly. However, this is not true at all. Singaporeans are just not big social creatures as compared to other nationalities.
Flexibility & Changes
With the millennials and Gen Zs in the workforce, changes can be seen in the Singapore work culture, especially after the pandemic. Depending on the job types, more and more companies are offering flexible work arrangements where employees are allowed to both work from home and come to the office when needed. Some companies are also trialling the 4-day work week.
Standard of Living in Singapore
Singapore has been touted as one of the most expensive countries to live in for expats. This may be true but foreigners should learn how to live like a local! While the locals get subsidised pricings on education, housing, and healthcare, they still love a good bargain and they always seek it.
Basic Living Expenses
Most Singaporeans don’t own cars, they take public transport to work and they eat at hawker centres or food courts where food can be as cheap as SGD 3. There is no better way to enjoy a country other than eating local dishes! A lot of Singaporeans still cook food at home but instead of buying from supermarkets, locals prefer to go to wet markets. Going to wet markets is a whole different experience for foreigners! You can get fresh seafood, meat, vegetables, and even spices here at cheaper prices than supermarkets.
Singaporeans are also mindful of their household expenses. Large appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and TVs are used on a daily basis and use a lot of electricity. Being a smart nation, more and more Singaporeans are turning their homes into a smart home as well where they can control everything with their phones such as water heater, air conditioning, and robot vacuums. Even though Singaporeans love their gadgets, they buy electrical appliances that are labelled as energy and cost efficient. They also buy taps and showerheads that can help them save water. This practice helps them save electricity and water costs.
There are sales events in Singapore almost all year round, for example, IT fairs held every few months where you can buy laptops, mobile phones, and all of their accessories at big discounts. The Great Singapore Sale is held annually for 6 weeks where people can get items at great discounts in shopping malls. As for online platforms, people wait for the annual 11.11 sale on Shopee and Lazada to replenish their toiletries, snacks, and even home cleaning and organising supplies! While sales events are largely advertised, don’t be shy to ask Singaporeans on where to get good deals. They will be happy to help you!
There are also a lot of free or low-cost activities to enjoy in Singapore. Go on picnics at The Botanic Gardens or East Coast Park, spend hours trekking in Macritchie, go to the beach at Sentosa Island, cycle all over the city at night or in the day at Pulau Ubin for a taste of rural life. There are also free water play areas for those with kids.
Working in Singapore
There are various pros and cons of working in Singapore. In summary, there is a fusion of east meets west in Singapore’s working environment and this in itself is a unique experience that a foreigner may enjoy or benefit from. There is no definite standard in how companies offer their employees in benefits, environment, and work arrangements.