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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expenses Overshadow the High Quality of Life in Singapore

Expats in Singapore value its high quality of life, the digitalization, and how easy it is to navigate life abroad, but the exorbitant costs are hard to handle.

Singapore comes 37th out of 53 destinations in the Expat Insider 2023 survey. It performs best in the Quality of Life (6th) and Expat Essentials (11th) Indices. In the latter, it comes 5th for Digital Life, Admin Topics, and Language, but only 51st for Housing. While Singapore ranks somewhat below average in the Working Abroad (35th) and Ease of Settling In (40th) Indices, it even lands among the bottom 5 destinations for Personal Finance (50th). Expats are particularly unhappy with the general cost of living (53rd), which has been an ongoing challenge. Overall, 68% of expats are happy with their life in Singapore, compared to 72% globally.

Easiest to Get Around In 

For the past ten years, survey respondents have always been very satisfied with the quality of life in Singapore, and 2023 is no exception. The city-state ranks 6th in the Quality of Life Index and 1st in the Travel & Transit Subcategory. The majority of expats enjoys their travel opportunities (95% happy vs. 84% globally), the infrastructure for cars (93% vs. 75% globally), and the availability of public transportation (93% vs. 73% globally), to name just a few highlights.  

Safe & Stable  

In the Safety & Security Subcategory (12th), Singapore ranks 1st for personal safety and 3rd for political stability — two factors for which the city-state has consistently performed extremely well. Close to all expats (98%) feel safe there, compared to 83% globally. However, 26% feel that they cannot openly express themselves and their opinions (vs. 15% globally). This new rating factor was first introduced in 2022, causing Singapore to drop out of the top 10 in this subcategory.  

Amazing Healthcare — For a Price  

In the Healthcare Subcategory (18th), Singapore ranks 3rd for each of these factors: availability, quality, and accessibility of healthcare. Close to four in five expats (79%) say that they can access all the kinds of healthcare services they need, compared to 65% globally. However, Singapore has ranked among the ten worst-rated destinations for the affordability of healthcare since 2016, and it does so again in 2023. The city-state comes 51st, only ahead of Ireland (52nd) and the USA (53rd): 38% find healthcare in Singapore unaffordable (vs. 19% globally).  

“Singapore offers a good quality of life in terms of a clean environment, infrastructure, public transport, a large number of options for health, exercise, activities, and socializing, as well as many options for food and culture.” – Indian expat 

Harder than Ever to Afford …  

Not only healthcare but life in general is hard to afford in Singapore: 74% consider the cost of living too high (vs. 35% globally). Close to three in ten (27%) are even very unhappy with this factor, more than three times the global average (8%).  

While the general cost of living has been named a downside for all ten years of the survey, most expats still used to be satisfied with their financial situation. But in 2023, only 57% of expats rate their financial situation positively, about the same as the global average (58%). Similarly, only 42% agree that their disposable household income is enough for a comfortable life in Singapore, just a tad less than the worldwide average of 44%.  

… Especially When It Comes to Housing 

Costs also play a role in the Housing Subcategory (51st): 81% of expats find housing in Singapore unaffordable (vs. 42% globally). “Rental costs are through the roof,” a British expat complains. What is more, 46% say that it is hard for expats to find housing in the first place, compared to 31% globally.  

A Digital Leader  

Despite the difficult housing market, Singapore ranks very well in the Expat Essentials Index (11th) overall. It comes 5th for Digital Life — Singapore has been among the top 10 here since this subcategory was introduced to the survey in 2018. Expats are happy with the availability of government services online (89% happy vs. 60% globally), find it easy to get high-speed internet access at home (92% vs. 80% globally), and to pay without cash (96% vs. 84% globally).  

An Easy Expat Destination to Navigate  

Maybe the high level of digitalization also helps expats to navigate life abroad in the city-state: Singapore comes 5th in the Admin Topics Subcategory. Close to seven in ten expats (69%) find it easy to deal with the local bureaucracy, compared to 39% globally. Another 76% describe it as easy to open a local bank account (vs. 62% globally).  

Terrible Work-Life Balance & Job Security  

The Working Abroad Index (35th) has its highs and lows. Expats are very happy with the state of Singapore’s economy (90% happy vs. 62% globally), and 71% say that moving there has improved their career prospects (vs. 59% globally). However, Singapore is among the worst-rated destinations for job security (47th) and working hours (52nd), even coming last for work-life balance (53rd). Maybe this is one reason why 19% are unsatisfied with their job in general, slightly more than the global average (16%).  

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