Expats in Malaysia among region’s poorest, but happier
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 — Expatriates working in Malaysia are among the lowest paid compared with regional peers, but lead more luxuriant lives than them, a HSBC Bank survey showed.
Among the East Asian countries listed in the survey, only expatriates in Thailand and the Philippines fared worse in terms of pay.
Expats in Malaysia’s southern neighbour Singapore, meanwhile, enjoyed the highest salaries among all countries surveyed by HSBC — with 45 per cent earning more than US$200,000 (RM620,000) annually, compared to the worldwide average of 21 per cent
In terms of ranking, Malaysia’s expats ranked 14th regionally in terms of income as compared with Singapore (1), Hong Kong (4), Philippines (6), China (12) and Thailand (19).
The figures suggest that salaries could be one of the challenges the Najib administration faces in attracting top foreign talent to the country in its bid to become a developed, high-income nation by 2020.
Under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) unveiled earlier this week, the government intends to grow Greater Kuala Lumpur’s population by an additional four million — to 10 million — by 2020, of which 500,000 (12 per cent) will consist of top foreign talent that will help turn the city into a world-class metropolis.
Stewart Forbes, executive director of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the abundance of high-earning expats in Singapore reflects the continued attractiveness of island-state as a foreign investment destination following the global recession. He also noted that more high-value foreign investments bring with them high-valued and highly paid expats, both of a technical and managerial nature.
He pointed out that expat numbers in Malaysia have been declining and said many felt that potential investors often have difficulty in getting permission to bring in the expats that they wanted.
Forbes added that salaries were only one of the considerations, with personal safety and lifestyle issues also affecting expat decisions.
“Quality of life and security are significant factors in senior expats willingness to relocate and, therefore, has an impact on the decision-making process of foreign investors,” he said. “Singapore is seen as having high living standards coupled with high security while Malaysia’s image still needs improvement.”
In Malaysia’s favour, however, is the relatively luxurious lifestyle the country’s expats enjoy as compared to their Singaporean counterparts.
Malaysian expats enjoyed the fifth most luxurious lifestyle according to the survey, far ahead of 13th ranked Singapore.
The luxury score in the report is derived from ascertaining the proportion of respondents who say they have enjoyed perks such as bigger properties, domestic helpers, nicer cars, own swimming pools and luxurious holidays.