Want a big expat package? Then head for where the living isn't so easy

Hong Kong's high standard of living means fewer perks for pampered foreigners

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 November, 2012, 4:13am

Foreign professionals in Hong Kong seem to have it all - a city boasting great transport links, a standard of living that is easy to adjust to, and the fourth-highest expatriate remuneration packages in Asia.

But throw in employee benefits for living expenses such as education and rent, and developing nations could well turn out to be more lucrative.

Employers in places like India are also likely to offer a "hardship allowance" because of the expected difficulty of getting used to life there.

"Cash compensation that an expatriate receives in Hong Kong is relatively low in the region in comparison to even developing locations such as India, China, Indonesia and Vietnam," said Lee Quane, regional director of human resources consultancy ECA International. The company found in a survey that Hong Kong ranked fourth in Asia for expat salary packages.

Overall, a place like India was likely to offer higher cash compensation, Quane said, when hardship allowances were factored in.

He said generous benefits would also offset the high cost of housing and poor transport networks, which often require employers to provide cars and chauffeurs for their foreign staff.

In Hong Kong, where foreigners find it easier to get around and to adjust to life, companies pay little or no hardship allowances.

The nature of the expatriate package in Hong Kong is also changing, Quane said.

While the number of high-paying packages were not dropping, Quane said the types of expatriate packages in Hong Kong were becoming more diverse, with more expatriates receiving compensation packages close to that of local colleagues.

"Expatriates relocating their families to Hong Kong for between one and three years will only be attracted by a package that leaves them no worse off than if they stayed at home," he said. "But for expatriates in Hong Kong for a long time, employers will align remuneration to be more like a local package."