Hunted Worldwide: Singapore

Recruitment skills are incredibly transferrable and there have never been so many diverse opportunities available to recruiters across the globe.

Here’s the low-down on one of our favourites, Singapore.

Recruitment Market

1 Market Overview 

There are close to 3500 registered recruitment agencies in Singapore with a growing number of international professional recruitment firms choosing Singapore as their hub for the South East Asia region.

While Singapore is a small country by land area, it is by no means a small recruitment market. Depending on your industry specialisation and company, you may be focussed solely on Singapore, or with a broader geographical remit across the South East Asia region.

Particularly amongst boutique recruitment businesses that may not have offices ‘in situ’, recruiters are likely to find themselves working roles in the emerging economies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and beyond.

In terms of sectors, Financial Services, Professional Services, Technology and Oil & Gas are some of the most mature recruitment markets. However, there is growing opportunity for recruiters in more diverse emerging sectors including Life Sciences and Digital.

Contract Versus Perm

Singapore has a more immature professional contractor market than other global recruitment hubs. There is a cultural hurdle for Singaporeans who do not attach the same prestige to contract work. Generally speaking, workers would generally prefer to accept a permanent position and businesses rather hire permanent staff.

Clients don’t always see the value of having agile talent, and as such it has been a more difficult path for contract recruiters transitioning to Singapore. This is changing however and part of the recruiters role is to educate their clients and candidates of the value of contract work.

The exception has been the Oil and Gas sector, which has traditionally relied heavily on flexible talent and as such, offers abundant opportunity for contract recruiters. 

As recruitment in Singapore continues to mature, expect to see further opportunities in contract recruitment across different sectors.recruitment in singapore 2

3 Professional Community

As you’d expect to find in any of the global recruitment hubs, Singapore has a big expat recruiter community.

The concentration of foreigners in the limited space of the city nation results in a strong sense of community, it is easy to run into people you know and common to recognise faces in the Central Business District and nightlife spots.

Singapore is a melting pot of diverse cultures and nationalities. You will notice a large proportion of the work force made up of people from the greater Asia region. Malaysians, Indonesians, Indians, Chinese and Filipinos make up the largest contingents.

Business Culture

Like anywhere, different sectors dictate different business practices. Local business culture is typically much more traditional, where relationship-driven approaches tend to work best. Trust plays a big part, and so does loyalty.

Being open-minded about different ways of working and building relationships is key in creating long-term value for you and your company.


English is the national language of Singapore so there’s zero language barrier for recruiters thinking of relocating. Although many might speak a second Asian language, English is the official language of the country and of business.

6 Business Development 

In the UK and other mature recruitment markets, the most difficult part of business development can be securing a meeting, but you have a good chance of picking up business when you do actually meet a potential client. In Singapore, clients tend to be much more open to meeting but it might take three or four meetings before you’ve earned their trust and they’ll decide to work with you.

It can take recruiters in Singapore longer to get up and running. It takes patience and a longer-term mentality to succeed. When you do start to see some success, though, you’ll be more likely to gain long-term commitment and loyalty from the businesses you partner with.recruitment in singapore 3

7 The CBD 

Singapore’s Central Business District (CBD) contains a very high concentration of the nation’s financial and commercial businesses. Built mostly on reclaimed land surrounding the Raffles Place area, it is a skyscraper city. Built upwards, not across, if you’re working with corporate clients you will rarely be more than 5 minutes away from their office. As a result, meetings are very efficient and it’s very easy to get face time with people.

8 Dress

Singapore is hot. As a result there often appears to be a more casual business dress. You’ll see fewer ties and almost no suit jackets. The easy way to spot a tourist or someone on a business trip is often their full-suited attire. While the dress is more casual though, business culture remains as formal as other global markets.

9 Travel

Singapore is a small city and it’s rare that the commute takes more than half an hour. Most people commute via MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), which is quick, easy and very cheap. It usually costs less than £1/$2 per journey, and the government has run an incentives recently meaning if you arrive in the CBD before 7.45am it’s completely free. Ideal for hitting the gym before work! Taxis are cheap too and Uber is a must-have.

Singapore Plane

Life in Singapore

1 Weather

Singapore has a tropical climate with little variation year-round. It’s hot and humid all year, with an average daytime temperature of around 31 degrees.

The city is built for the heat, and everywhere is air-conditioned which can take some getting used to.

2 Housing

Singapore is almost exclusively Condo Living for expats.

Some people live right in the CBD and others further outside. As you’d expect, prices vary massively depending on location. As almost all condos have a swimming pool, a gym, maybe a tennis court on site, every weekend in Singapore can feel like a resort holiday.

You really feel as though you get good value for money when it comes to accommodation. Rental prices vary a lot but are roughly on a par with London, although more expensive than the rest of the UK.

3 Food

The food in Singapore is great, especially if you like Asian cuisine. You’ll find authentic Chinese in China Town and authentic Indian in Little India, and can eat very well for very little (c. £3/meal) in the hawker centres – big open-air complexes filled with different street vendors.

Although eating Asian food is cheapest and the selection most varied, there are, as you would expect, plenty of other options too, albeit with a slight premium. From French bistro and British gastropub to American diners and Italian eateries.recruitment in singapore 4

4 Outdoor Space

Singapore is well known for it’s high-rises and boat-topped buildings, but less so for it’s beautiful gardens and parks which the government makes sure to protect. The Botanical Gardens, Macritchie Reservoir and East Coast Park are just a few of the places you can escape to. If you’re looking for something slightly more adventurous you only have to cross the border into Malaysia or take a cheap flight to be on a beautiful beach or be immersed in tropical jungle.

5 Social Scene

While the nightlife in Singapore might not be as gritty and extensive as somewhere like Hong Kong, for example, there is lots going on and plenty of variety. Just as you’d expect in a major city. There are a growing number of international acts and DJs that are putting Singapore on their tour circuits. Plus the weather means you can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine sat outside in the sun any day of the year.

It’d be remiss of us not to mention the ‘free-flow champagne brunch buffets’ Singapore is known for – put on by most of the tops hotels every Sunday. Not to be missed!

Singapore truly comes into its own during the weekend of the Grand Prix, recognised as the best show on the Formula One circuit. The night race is a massive event in Singapore, with concerts and events across for the whole long weekend.

There are lots of sports and social clubs, which serve as a hub for meeting other expats and a great networking opportunity for recruiters.

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6 Family

Singapore is a fantastic city for families and incredibly safe. Singapore has zero crime and zero drug tolerance policies that are very effective. The international schooling is certainly not cheap but local schools offer better value and the education system is acknowledged to be world leading and is taught in English.

Hiring a live-in helper is incredibly affordable in Singapore – and can be an absolute life changer, especially for young families. For around 400SGD to 800SGD (£200-£400) a month, you can have live-in help to assist with cooking, cleaning and childcare –It’s an invaluable luxury that few families can afford in western countries, and one that many families take advantage of.

Cost of Living

Singapore is considered one of the most expensive cities in the world, but that’s a bit of a misnomer because many things are cheaper than you’ll be used to. Eating out (local cuisine), regional travel, getting around Singapore for example. You’ll find supermarkets and alcohol are generally more expensive however.

This city state has the highest concentration of millionaires in the world and it does cater for the ultra-rich, but Singapore offers much more choice over how much you spend – so if you need to stick to a budget it’s not hard.

In spite of the perception that the cost of living is expensive, in practical terms your money goes much further in Singapore and you can afford a greater quality of life for less.

8 Tax

One of the reasons your money goes further is the favourable tax rate Singapore offers.

Most recruiters are used to tax rates up to 40%, but in Singapore the highest tax rate is 20%. On average, recruiters will end up paying 5-10% tax – and in your first year you won’t pay anything at all. Tax in Singapore works on a preceding-year basis, so in your second year you pay tax on your first year earnings, and so on.

If you are earning $50,000 you will pay 2.5% tax; if you are earning $120,000, you will pay 6.6% tax…. Not bad!

9 Visas

Recruiters in Singapore need a company sponsored employment pass (EP). The more well established your recruitment company, the more clout they’ll have when securing visas for expat workers.

Most companies are happy to invest in talent from overseas, so obtaining a visa isn’t particularly difficult. Typically the minimum requirement is a degree and a couple of years’ industry experience, or five years without a degree.

10 Exotic travel

Singapore boasts some of the most exotic travel opportunities in the world – from a weekend break in Bali to a quick beach trip in Thailand.

South East Asia offers a luxury lifestyle that is very affordable: a flight over to Phuket is cheaper and quicker than a train from London to Manchester!

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One of the huge benefits of a career in recruitment is the opportunity to work abroad – Singapore is a great place to do it. Life in Singapore is easy: it offers a unique quality of life, combined with the tax system allowing your money go further: you can live a luxury lifestyle that few can afford elsewhere.

Recruitment in Singapore is thriving, and maturing markets mean opportunity for recruiters are only growing. But take caution, successful recruitment in other cities doesn’t automatically translate into successful recruitment in Singapore.

Recruiters relocating to Singapore should be aware of the need to be adaptable, culture-sensitive, and patient while they build up credibility and trust in the market. Given those traits, there are opportunities for recruiters to do fantastically well in the Singaporean market.