Working in Singapore
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
Singapore has a lot to offer foreign graduates, being a highly developed country with one of the most successful economies in the world. Its cosmopolitan workforce is efficient and productive, and in growth areas such as IT, finance and software engineering, local talent needs to be supplemented with skilled foreign workers in order to meet demand.
Gaining the qualifications and skills required in the job sectors where demand is greatest may help to improve your chances of finding employment.
English is the language of commerce. A working visa is required but is straightforward to obtain and in most cases is sponsored by your employer.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: banking and finance, biomedical sciences, chemicals, communications and media, electronics and precision engineering, oil drilling equipment, IT, maritime services.
- Recent growth areas: financial services, information technology, consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals.
- Industries in decline: manufacturing.
- Shortage occupations: skilled occupations such as engineering, and some specific areas of expertise in the business sector.
- Major companies: BP Singapore, CapitaLand, DBS, Exxon Mobil, Shell Eastern Trading, Petrochina International, SK Energy International, Sinochem International Oil, Vitol Asia, Wilmar International.
What’s it like working in Singapore?
- Average working hours: most companies operate on a five-day week from Monday to Friday, although some may also be open on Saturday mornings. The average working week is 44 hours.
- Holidays: eleven public holidays. You may be entitled to annual leave if you have worked with a company for at least three months. Annual leave allowance ranges from 7 to 14 days, depending on the length of service.
- Tax rates: personal income tax rates are lower than in many other developed countries. As a non-resident, you will be liable to pay income tax if you have worked in Singapore for 60 days or more. The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has tax information for non-residents. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
You do not have to be in the country to apply for a job and applications can be made online. Most job sites will require you to register with them before applying for vacancies.
Application procedures vary, depending on the organisation and profession. While some companies prefer a CV, others use online application forms. Check individual company websites for details and to find out whether speculative applications are welcome.
Candidates need to secure a job offer in order to get a work permit. Where a CV is required, follow the guidelines for a UK CV.
Initial interviews are often conducted by telephone for applicants outside Singapore. Further interviews are then undertaken in person, by telephone or via videoconferencing.
Large international companies may invite you to an assessment centre where you will sit written examinations or practical tests, as in the UK.
Interviews (and applications) are conducted in English unless otherwise stated in the job advert.
Get more applications and CV advice.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
UK qualifications are generally well recognised around the world, but check with the employer or the relevant professional body prior to applying for work.
- Ministry of Education Singapore
- Singapore Civil Service – Job Portal
- Company websites – many companies with a presence in Singapore advertise vacancies on their websites.
- EntrePass scheme – for foreign entrepreneurs wanting to start a business in Singapore. See the Ministry of Manpower and SPRING Singapore for more details.
Most companies in Singapore welcome speculative applications – check individual company websites for details. Networking is a big part of the Singapore business community. You can join professional organisations, such as The Law Society of Singapore or the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, to develop contacts in your chosen field. You can also approach networking organisations such as Business Network International – Singapore for help with business and job referrals. The Singapore Economic Development Board has information on companies that are moving to Singapore, so it may be worth approaching them for suitable contacts.
Getting work experience
Work placements and internships
Opportunities are available to students undertaking undergraduate, masters or PhD degree programmes. In most cases, students must have completed the first year of their studies. Opportunities are usually arranged individually and directly with participating companies. Some organisations advertise work experience vacancies on their website, though internships in Singapore are highly sought-after and attract large numbers of applicants.
Students may be able to apply to AIESEC, which is a youth organisation offering members the opportunity to gain valuable experience volunteering on exchanges in partner countries.
- The National Institute of Education – Singapore is the only teacher training institute in Singapore and has details of academic and non-academic vacancies.
- There is a demand for qualified TEFL teachers, although opportunities are not as easy to find as in other Asian countries.
The Singapore Work Holiday Programme allows university students and recent graduates aged between 18 and 25, from eight countries (including the UK), to work for a period of six months in Singapore while on a holiday visa.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
Use job hunting sources and general gap year websites to search for opportunities. The GapYear.com website, for example, has some information on backpacking around Singapore. The National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) offers volunteering positions in partnership with the public and private sectors.
Do you need a visa?
UK nationals wanting to work in Singapore need to have a valid employment pass.
There are a few types of passes:
- Employment Pass for a role paying at least 3,300 Singaporean dollars a month;
- EntrePass for foreign entrepreneurs wanting to set up a business in Singapore;
- Work Permits for semi-skilled workers from approved countries;
- S Pass for mid-level workers, such as technicians;
- Personalised Employment Pass for higher earners.
For more information about employment passes, eligibility and passes for family members, visit the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website.
If you are not a UK national, contact the Singaporean embassy in the country where you are currently residing about how to obtain visas and work permits. If you are living in the UK, go to the Singaporean Embassy website.
You might also find it helpful to contact your ministry of foreign affairs (or your own embassy if you are not living in your home country) to ask whether there are any issues to be taken into account when considering working in Singapore.
How do you become a permanent resident?
UK nationals working in Singapore can become Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs). For more information and to download application forms, go to the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website.
Living in Singapore
- Cost of living: rent in Singapore is more expensive than in many other Asian countries and is comparable with UK prices. Food prices are similar to the UK, as are entertainment costs.
- Internet domain: .sg
- Currency: Singapore Dollar (SGD or S$).
- Health: healthcare is excellent but expensive, so medical insurance is essential. The tap water is safe to drink but avoid poorly cooked food, particularly seafood. There is a risk of dengue fever, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no commercially available vaccine, so taking the usual precautions against mosquitoes is important.
- Type of government: republic and parliamentary democracy.
- Laws and customs: there are severe penalties for all drug offences and the death penalty is imposed for those found guilty of drug trafficking. A wide range of offences, including vandalism and visa overstaying, can carry a penalty of corporal punishment. On-the-spot fines are very common and are issued for offences such as smoking in public places, jaywalking and littering. Eating and drinking is prohibited on public transport.
- Emergency numbers: 995 Ambulance and Fire, 999 Police. UK citizens in Singapore who need assistance can get help from the British High Commission in Singapore.
- People: Chinese, Malays, Indian.
- Major religion: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism and Hinduism.