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Thailand falls out of global top 20 most expensive locations for expatriate staff

Thailand plunges out of the global top 20 most expensive locations to hire expatriate employees, falling by eight places in the rankings.

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The average pay package for a mid-level expatriate worker in Thailand has fallen by over 7% to USD 223,142 annually.

Globally, Japan overtakes the United Kingdom as the most expensive location to send workers to, with the average expatriate package there costing USD 405,685.

These were some of the findings of the latest MyExpatriate Market Pay survey published by ECA International, the world’s leading provider of knowledge, information, and software for the management and assignment of employees around the world.

When considering the cost of an expatriate package, companies need to factor in three main elements: the cash salary, benefits – such as accommodation, international schools, utilities, or cars – and tax.

To assist companies looking to relocate their staff with benchmarking their packages against the market, ECA conducts its annual MyExpatriate Market Pay Survey of pay levels for expatriates around the world, covering all the aforementioned considerations.

 “Thailand has dropped eight places in our rankings, and is now outside the top 20 most expensive locations to employ expatriate staff. We saw a big drop in the value of expatriate packages in Thailand in 2020, with salaries dropping by USD 3,462 on average and benefit costs falling by over USD 8,500, making it significantly cheaper for a company to employ a mid-level expatriate employee in the current market”

Lee Quane, Regional Director – Asia at ECA International

Asia Highlights

  • Cash salaries of expatriates in Singapore remain 5th highest worldwide, despite the overall cost of employing a mid-level expatriate worker in Singapore dropping by USD 7,284.
  • Expatriate packages see overall decreases in Malaysia and Hong Kong, in light of falling accommodation costs.
  • Taiwan bucks the trend, moving into the top ten most expensive locations globally, as rising housing prices inflate benefit packages.

Singapore is now the 17th most expensive location globally for companies to send expatriates to, with the average pay package for a mid-level worker costing companies USD 225,171 annually.

Quane said “This drop in pay packages is partly driven by lower costs of accommodation and other benefits commonly provided to white collar expatriates, but employees themselves are also taking home approximately USD 1,000 less in cash salary than their peers in 2019. Nevertheless, cash salaries paid out to expatriates in Singapore remain the 5th highest worldwide. This means that expatriates in Singapore are more likely to be paid more compared to their peers in other locations.”

Elsewhere, Malaysia also saw a similar trend to many other nations in the world, with the cost of the average expatriate pay package falling by USD 2,813 in 2020 compared to the year before.

“The average mid-level expatriate in Malaysia saw a salary of USD 71,025 in 2020, which is slightly less than the previous year. The cost of benefits fell by a much more significant USD 1,952 on average, as rents dropped amid a lack of demand for expatriate accommodation, which had been brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on international travel”, said Quane.

Meanwhile, expatriate pay packages in Hong Kong dropped by over USD 5,000 over the last year, to a new average total of USD 279,399. This was in spite of a slight average salary increase of USD 265.

“The cost of employing an expatriate in Hong Kong was lower in 2020 than in previous years, but this was indicative of a much larger global trend we saw in many countries across the world. While salaries for expatriates in Hong Kong rose by less than 1%, employers were able to benefit from lower accommodation costs, and reduce the amount of financial support provided for housing compared to previous year,” explained Quane.

On the other hand, Taiwan bucked the trend seen in many locations across Asia, entering the global top ten most expensive locations to employ expatriates for the first time as the overall cost of expatriate packages rose in the market.

“The cost of employing a mid-level expatriate in Taiwan increased by USD 10,733 last year as all aspects of expatriate pay packages rose. The most significant rise was seen in benefits costs, which surged by USD 6,500 on average off the back of a steep rise in rents in the local housing market – a result of Taiwan’s initial success in mitigating the transmission of the Covid-19 virus. Furthermore, cash salaries rose by just over 1%, which, despite not being a high rate of increase, was still higher than comparable locations in the region. Consequently, Taiwan has leapfrogged nations such as South Korea and Australia in our rankings, and is now the tenth most expensive location to employ expatriate staff”, noted Quane.

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