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Hong Kong expatriate salary packages continued to grow throughout 2019, while the cost of employing expat staff in most other jurisdictions dropped.

The average cost of employing a mid-level expatriate worker in Hong Kong cost a company on average just over US$284,000 (HK$2.23 million), including an average cash salary of US$88,000.

This was one of the key findings of the just-released MyExpatriate Market Pay survey published annually by ECA International.

“Hong Kong stood out against the global trend of lower expatriate packages in 2019 and is one of the only locations in our rankings that saw all aspects of the average package increase” said Lee Quane, regional director, Asia for ECA International.

“However, though this increase is positive news when compared to the rest of Asia, it was significantly lower than in previous years. This was representative of the weakened global economy in 2019,” Quane added.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the average expatriate package is unlikely to grow significantly for the foreseeable future, as pressure builds on companies to manage their costs.”

Asia Highlights

China remains the third most expensive location globally in which to employ expatriate workers, despite the overall cost of employing an expatriate package in the country dropping by over US$6000 – including a US$2262 drop in the average salary.

The ongoing China-US trade tensions are considered a factor.

Singapore has held steady as a reasonably priced location for employing expat staff, with the overall cost of employing a mid-level expatriate employee standing at just over US$232,000, including an average cash salary of US$88,000 (similar to Hong Kong). This reflects a drop of over US$3,800 in the overall costs compared to 2018 though, with the falling costs of employing an expat in Singapore reflecting a global downward trend.

“The key reason for Singapore’s more favourable ranking in terms of costs compared with elsewhere in Asia is the low tax-related costs compared to most of the other locations ranked and lower costs associated with benefits compared with other high cash salary locations such as Hong Kong,” explained Quane.

Rest of the world

The UK was once again named the most expensive country in the world to hire expat workers, with the overall cost standing at an exorbitant US$413,000 (£315,000). However, the average salary of US$73,400 is significantly lower than many other countries.

Outside of Asia, the highest rising country in the rankings was the US, where the overall cost of employing an expatriate rose by US$3000 to a total of US$253,000. In contrast, Sweden saw the biggest drop, with the average cost of employing an overseas worker now just over US$219,000 – a drop of over US$20,000 in just one year.

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

Top 10 most expensive Asian locations to employ expat workers

Country

Total cost of expatriate package (US$)

Japan

383,582

China

303,567

India

302,467

Hong Kong

284,466

Korea Republic

252,382

Thailand

241,095

Philippines

239,396

Taiwan

237,495

Singapore

232,454

Bangladesh

230,827