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Singapore no longer No 1 in expatriates' eyes
By Kok Xing Hui
After holding the top spot for the past two years, Singapore has fallen to third place in an annual global survey on the most desirable countries for expatriates to work and live in.
The Republic lost its crown in the HSBC survey this year - ranking behind China and Germany - amid concerns among respondents over job market security, integration with locals and the rising cost of living. The survey results were released last week.
In particular, more than half the respondents in Singapore - compared to a global average of 39 per cent - cited job security as one of the top three threats to their financial well-being and confidence, said the report, which polled 228 expats here.
While the Republic's ranking has fallen, HSBC noted that year-on-year comparisons "are not statistically valid" due to changes to the methodology, questionnaire and sample set.
The Expat Explorer report, now in its sixth year, questioned 7,004 expats across nearly 100 countries from April 29 to June 11 and factored four criteria - economics, experience, raising children abroad and expenses.
Singapore has been tightening its foreign labour policies in recent years. Under the Fair Consideration Framework announced in September, employers are required, from August next year, to advertise job vacancies to Singaporeans for 14 days before they can turn to Employment Pass (EP) holders.
Graphic designer Nandita Gupta, 30, who moved from India with her husband in 2010, said she faced difficulties looking for a job despite being on a Dependant's Pass - where a spouse can obtain a letter of consent from the Manpower Ministry for them to be employed. "Most of the job advertisements say they want either Singaporeans or Permanent Residents. That works against us."
The Republic also fared poorly when it came to expats integrating into the local community - ranking 26th out of 37 countries.
But some expats TODAY spoke to said they had settled in well.
Client relationship director Loise Jacquette, 30, said it was not difficult for her to integrate when she relocated from France - thanks to local room-mates who introduced her to other Singaporeans and explained the cultural nuances. Making friends in Thailand was harder due to the language barrier, she said, although she does know of expats in Singapore who do not have local friends.
The cost of living is a bigger problem for her. "Rent is awfully crazy ... At the moment I'm sharing an HDB flat in Commonwealth," said Ms Jacquette, adding that the price of groceries had also increased.
The survey showed that 65 per cent of expats here said they were spending more on groceries this year, while 63 per cent pointed to the higher costs of public transport.
Education and childcare are also seen as expensive, but nearly eight in 10 appreciated Singapore's quality of education.
British media specialist Rob O'Brien, whose daughter was born last year in KK Women's and Children's Hospital, said: "Singapore is expensive, but there are ways to have children here and not blow the family budget. We couldn't send our kids to a private school but I think the quality of teaching at our local school in Boon Keng is exceptional."
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