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A confused expat looking to work in Singapore - please help!

Discuss about getting a well paid job or career advancement. Ask about salaries, expat packages, CPF & taxes for expatriate.

Tony_Melb
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A confused expat looking to work in Singapore - please help!

Postby Tony_Melb » Sat, 29 Dec 2007 4:06 pm

Hi everybody

I have done a lot of searching but am still having difficulty getting to grips with the job market in Singapore.

I am a Cisco certified Network Engineer and in Australia am earning an annual salary of AUD$80,000 (SGD$101,000). This isn't a very high salary in Australia compared to what I would be getting with another 5-10 years experience (I have 5 years experience at the moment).

I desperately want to move to Singapore to work for a couple of years (motivated by the cultural experience mainly). Now am I correct in assuming that an "expat package" is when you work for a Multi-national Organisation based in your home country and they relocate you to Singapore and end up paying your accommodation, travel etc? I don't have that option since I do not work for an MNO.

Looking through the online jobs such as monster.com.sg etc it seems that the top end of the job market is about SGD$6,000 per month. This is a big step down from what I am currently on in Australia.

However after talking to a friend in Singapore, she said that these salaries were for local talent. My question is, how do I go about finding the good offers for foreign talent? Should I be talking to an recruitment agency in Singapore?

I have heard of expats without a lot of experience in IT being offered salaries of SGD$80,000 which is probably the minimum I would accept (and sounds about reasonable to me), but this seems to be considerably higher than the jobs I see posted on job websites.

Sorry to ask what must be a very common question but I honestly don't know where to turn for help. Any feedback would be most appreciated! Thank you.

Tony

Lisa M
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Postby Lisa M » Sat, 29 Dec 2007 9:39 pm

I am not an expert on recruitment but I think you need to look at the entire package and not just the monthly salary. In Singapore, local talents get paid a monthly salary but that does not include the employer's contribution to CPF. It also does not include the 13th month bonus and some companies promise two months' bonus, which is written in the appointment letter. In a good year, many locals get 6-7 months bonus, which add to the overall annual income.

For eg : my British friend was offered a SGD100,000 package but since he is a permanent resident, the compulsory employer's contribution must be paid out of the SGD100,000. There is no additional bonus too. So, in actual fact, he gets only slightly over SGD7000 a month. I also hear of people getting a package+bonus+whatnots . So it is best if you are clear what the package promises. I think it differs from company to company.

You must also look at the difference between tax rates in Singapore and Australia. Unless the package you are looking at is after tax.

You can also try some recruitment agencies too.

(i) Robert Walters
(ii) Michael Page
(iii) Morgan Mckinley

To be totally honest, 5 years is not exactly a long time so you might want to adjust your expectations a little. IT people with 5 years experience in SIngapore are a dime a dozen. Unless you have some very specialised IT skills, which companies can't find in local talent, it is quite hard to get a better deal than what you have seen. Anyway, SGD6000 is enough for you to have a decent and exciting life in Singapore. Rent is probably the highest expenditure but you can always get a flatmate.

Good luck in your job search.

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Postby Tony_Melb » Sun, 30 Dec 2007 1:53 pm

Thank you very much for your reply Lisa M.

I note what you say about experience and competing with local talent, but I was hoping that a double degree (Commerce & Information Systems) from a well known university (University of Melbourne) along with a number of industry certifications (Cisco and otherwise) would give me an advantage.

I guess you could say I'm somewhat specialised because I have my Cisco Security certification (CCSP) which is a separate independent security qualification in addition to the 'dime a dozen' plain old LAN/WAN networking. And the Kelly Services Singapore Salary Guide 2006 listed 'Security Consultant' as being between SGD$5-8K per month.

I'm still wondering how my friend's friend who was a junior programmer with little experience got a package of SGD$80,000!

Thank you very much for your advice on recruitment agencies. Should I heed some advice previously given and avoid the online job advertisements (I was advised these are for locals only) and stick with an agency instead? Are those agencies you listed specifically for IT? And would you recommend approaching the agencies locally here in Australia if possible or communicate directly with the Singapore offices? Sorry to sound a bit vague - it can be so hard to get some concrete answers sometimes.

As a side note, from what I have read thus far the whole expat working deal looks like it primarily targets very senior/skilled people with many years of experience behind them. This is obviously understandable as they are being remunerated in line with their seniority or skill. My problem is that I'm 28 and desperately want to spend a couple of years working in Singapore for the life experience it will give me but at the same time want to avoid taking a pay cut over what I am on at the moment here in Australia. But in general expats would be offered a wage higher than that being offered to local talent, correct?

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Postby Lisa M » Sun, 30 Dec 2007 10:12 pm

If you are really keen to work in Singapore, my advice is that you should try all possibilities.

From what I know, agencies like Robert Walters keep a global database of their candidates so it is worth a try. You can forward your CV to technology@robertwalters.com.sg.

Morgan Mckinley deal with banking IT only. In all honesty, I do not know much about IT so I'm not sure if they have jobs in your specialisation. You can try by logging on to their Singapore site.

Australia happens to be the regional base for many recruitment agencies and many Australian agencies advertise jobs in Singapore in some of their Australian job search sites so you might want to check that out.

Another possibility is to look out for contract positions, as many companies offer contract terms due to certain HR constraints and these positions get renewed most of the time, or made permanent. Usually, contract terms are more attractive than those offered in permanent positions.

I have a friend who applied for PR (permanent residency) in Singapore by setting up a company with a grand business plan for IT development, which he has absolutely no intention of putting into action. Surprisingly, he was given PR status and this helped him greatly in his job search. (not sure why since I am sure companies are able to apply for a work permit for him)

I think you should also try the online sites in Singapore too, reason being that jobs will first be advertised to see if they could be filled by locals. If no locals fit their criteria, they would then advertise elsewhere to attract foreign talent.

(i) db jobs
(ii)efinancialcareers
(iii) monster Singapore

Personally, I think that foreign talent get higher pay only for senior positions which can't be filled by locals, who do not have the required experience or qualifications. As for other positions, it seems as though foreign talents get higher pay because their pay package is calculated in a different way. As mentioned in my previous reply, locals are paid a monthly salary but it does not include the employer's contribution to CPF (which is an additional amount of money the employers have to contribute)

For eg : if a local is promised a monthly pay of SGD8000, the company needs to pay SGD8000 + CPF contribution (which is 12-14% of SGD8000) per month. So in actual fact, the cost of employing a local per month is not simply SGD8000 but SGD8000 + CPF contribution. Not sure if I am good at explaining this. You may want to look at the Singapore CPF site for a better explanation.

I understand that it can get rather depressing when one is looking for a job. I have been through that before but the good news is that the job market in Singapore is still buoyant so the chances of you getting a job remain positive. Don't reject a job just because of the money ; many a times, a job will open up doors to many more opportunities, especially in a small job market like Singapore's. Once you get yourself here, it will definitely be easier for you to get a better pay package.

Give me a day's time for me to consult my IT friends on the regional job websites they often visit.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sun, 30 Dec 2007 11:32 pm

Lisa M,

Don't want to rain on anyones parade but just to keep the facts clear for our friends abroad, the Employer's CPF contributions are 14.5% of a maximum salary cap of $4500/mo or $652.50/mo this coupled with the employee's contribution of 20% with the same cap is a total contribution of $1552/mo (34.5% of $4500). For 1st years PR's it is reduced to a total contribution rate of just 9% and for the 2nd year a total rate of 18%. The full rate only kicks in with the 3rd anniversary of obtaining PR. Even if someone's salary is 12K/mo it is still only based on the first $4500/mo.

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Postby Tony_Melb » Mon, 31 Dec 2007 8:21 am

Thank you so much for your wise words Lisa M. You're a wealth of knowledge and I really appreciate you taking the time to pass on those details!

I have no hesitations in accepting a contracting role at all. This wouldn't change the process of finding the job itself - I would still be looking at the same job boards and going through the same agencies, it would just be a 'contract' role instead of a 'permanent' role, right?

Thank you also for checking with your IT friends as to the job sites in Singapore. Am I stretching my luck if you could also ask your IT friends the IT-specific agencies that are out there? :)

Oh by the way, I have some matters here in Australia which need to be finalised before moving to Singapore which will take a couple of months to get sorted out. I thought I'd get a start on the job search now because it may take some time (no point starting the search right when I'm ready to move and facing an indefinite wait). Is there any rough guide as to how long a typical job search may take? I would have expected it to take a few months but the wise people on this board would know a lot better than I would.

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Postby Lisa M » Mon, 31 Dec 2007 4:24 pm

First of all, I have absolutely no idea which branch of IT you specialise in due to my lack of IT knowledge.

For jobs in Singapore but recruiting from Australia/UK
(i) jobserve.com.au
(ii)cwjobs.co.uk

For these sites, my friends say that usually jobs in Singapore are advertised when they could not be filled by Singaporeans. So the same job may be advertised on these sites as well as on the Singaporean websites.

Recruitment Agencies for not-so senior positions (most likely on local terms) , you can try

(i) Peoplesearch
(ii) BGC Group

Singapore Job sites

(i) Jobs db
(ii)efinancialcareer (usually banking IT)

Other recruitment agencies
(i) Robert Walters
(ii) Ambition

My friends are in IT for energy/oil/trading so they are not exactly sure which agency is IT-specific.

I think you can search for a job while attending to your private matters. Usually, the first few interviews for overseas candidates are conference calls (over the phone) In fact, I have a friend from Russia who was offered a job without him having to make his way down to Singapore for an interview. BUt it all depends I guess.

Good luck. :)

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Postby Tony_Melb » Mon, 31 Dec 2007 11:19 pm

Wow! Thank you very much again Lisa M!

I'm specifically in Data Networking and Security working primarily with Cisco equipment (switches, routers, firewalls), but I don't think that adds considerably to what you have already advised.

Please let me say once again how much I appreciate your kind advice and Happy New Year!

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Postby nepenthe » Mon, 31 Dec 2007 11:20 pm

I'm in a similiar position coming from an IT background and looking for a job in Singapore. This may help so thought I'd share some information. From my research so far, it will be challenging to land an "expat" package as you would ideally like. Not impossible, but as others have mentioned, you essentially have to offer a unique skill or some additional value to a company (preferably an MNC) that sets you apart from a typical local in order to justify your cost. I met with a very senior IT person in a large MNC who basically told me would not sign off on an expat package unless that person was the only and absolute last person they could find anywhere who could do the job.

That being said it's still a good idea to continue your search and get things started, it certainly doesn't hurt. Also, many companies are paying out year end bonuses after the new year and through the first two months of '08. After these employees receive their bonuses, some of them will leave for other jobs. That will open up more positions for you to consider. Hope this helps and good luck!

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Postby Tony_Melb » Tue, 01 Jan 2008 9:06 am

Hi nepenthe and thank you for your feedback.

I am not overly concerned with landing an "expat" package. I realise that I would need a good 10-20 years experience to justify such an offer being made to me.

All I am really after is a decent local salary given my skills and experience. All in all, from what I have seen it does seem that people in IT in Singapore do not get paid very much compared to having the same skills/experience in Australia. That's fine, I realise there are a number of factors that come into play here. Since I want to work in Singapore for the wonderful life experience I believe it can offer I would much rather do it now while I'm still young rather than wait another 10-20 years.

I have read one or two posts in these forums of young people such as myself with no experience, or very little experience, being offered packages over SGD$100,000 per year. I understand that these are the exception rather than the rule, and honestly cannot see the justification in these salaries, but it is comforting to know that these possibilities exist, rare as they may be.

I know some people have hinted that there is immense competition for jobs and I should not expect too much in pay. I believe that I have a number of attributes such as a specialisation in security (CCSP) in addition to my LAN/WAN (CCNP) skills, experience (and certifications) across a range of vendors such as Nortel and Juniper, and experience across a diverse range of clients and their network environments, which would make me a good investment for a potential employer.

So in a nutshell I would want more than a standard $3500 per month salary, but of course am not expecting relocation, accommodation expenses etc to be paid.

Thank you for your advice on the timing of the year end bonuses. I will start searching job boards and talking to recruitment firms now and wait patiently until an opportunity presents itself.

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IT Jobs

Postby SouthKiwi » Thu, 10 Jan 2008 2:28 pm

For what it is worth – my experience in finding a job in Singapore is no different to any other place . . . . and its not rare for people to apply from overseas (probably the norm these days).

What I can say, and this is common across all IT roles, networking will fast track you to actual qualified opportunities with additional benefit of a personal reference. Going through agencies and sending CV’s – its like playing lotto. Most of the roles I came across were not even in the public domain. I also dealt face to face a few international recruiters whilst in Singapore – they all seem to be chasing same placements.

I had a role pointed in my direction – had three (1 to 3 hr) phone interviews and got the job - the fact that somebody put my name forward went a long way. That said, the role was disestablished a week later :mad:

Now a year later, and rent/housing increases of 30%, I’m starting to look again :???:

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Postby zjules » Thu, 10 Jan 2008 4:06 pm

Also, dont expect to get paid more just because you are a foreigner. Why would companies do that? Its more hassle for them to hire a foreigner as they need to apply for employment passes etc, and when there is so much IT talent here already who generally expect less, then it is difficult. You need to prove that you can provide something that cannot be found locally (which i believe the employer also has to do to get your EP). People that are here on expat packages are usually here as they have some unique skill or experience.. good luck, as there are good things about.. p.s. i have some 'expat' programmer friends that are on alot less than 80k here....


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