High rent and living costs are causing expats to move to Malaysia & Vietnam

SINGAPORE: Several expatriates in Singapore have been moving to other South East Asian cities because of increased rental fees and overall living costs.

In a cost-cutting measure, multinational companies have been looking to relocate staff out of Singapore, say recruitment agencies.

Mr Nic Chambers, the managing director of one such agency, Michael Page Malaysia, is quoted in a June 5 Al Jazeera piece as saying that there’s been a “strong appetite” to move employees from Singapore to Malaysia because of its “location, English-speaking population, lower cost of living and strong presence of back-end office functions.”

“Singapore still has a really important role to play. CFOs and CEOS of listed companies will still want to remain in Singapore because of its proximity to investors, private equity firms and venture capital firms. However, I fully expect over time, we will start to see even some of those C suite roles moving into Malaysia,” he added. C suite roles belong to the highest-ranking senior executives in an organisation.

The Al Jazeera piece gives the example of Mr Benedikt Becker, a German national who started working in Singapore in 2020 but moved to Kuala Lumpur last year.

And in spite of the lower salary in his new job, he’s actually been able to save “much more” by living in Malaysia because of lower costs when it comes to rent and food.

“There’s the saying: If you don’t like the rules, you have to change the game… so my move from Singapore to Malaysia was my way of changing the game to keep the cost of living expenses low,” he said to Al Jazeera.

The article also cited the example of US citizen Will Fong, whose landlord raised the rental of his one-bedroom condo in Jurong East from S$2,600 to $3,500 monthly.

Deciding that “it would be way too expensive if I agreed to that rental rate,” Mr Fong instead is now working remotely from all around South East Asia, starting from Ho Chi Minh City  and Da Nang in Vietnam, instead.

However, not everyone wants to stay away from Singapore because of high rent or living costs.

High-ranking senior executives are taking advantage of the new Overseas Networks & Expertise (ONE) Pass and are coming to the country, attracted by low tax rates and a higher quality of life.

And overall, there are more expats coming into Singapore than those who are being edged out due to high prices, since Singapore is still considered to be a “safe haven”, National University of Singapore business professor Sumit Agarwal told Al Jazeera.


Expats leaving SG due to high rent; Netizens say more foreigners will come, but this is not good for Singapore

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