Hong Kong beats Singapore in expat survey by HSBC, but Mumbai best for salaries

City ranks ninth in HSBC Expat Explorer Survey of 27,000 expatriates carried out by YouGov

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 8:17am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 8:17am

Expatriates in Hong Kong earn, on average, just three quarters of their equivalents in Shanghai, and two thirds compared with those in Mumbai, according to new figures from HSBC. But those in Singapore are further behind.

Nonetheless, pure salary figures are not everything and respondents to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey in Singapore were more likely to cite their city’s clean and safe public spaces and convenient public transport as advantages than those in either Hong Kong or Shanghai. Those who have moved to Singapore were also more likely to own a home in their new city, the survey found.

HSBC said the mean gross personal annual income of expatriates it surveyed in Shanghai was US$202,000, ranking the city fourth globally, compared with US$148,000 in Hong Kong (ninth globally) and US$177,000 in Singapore. The highest salaries for expats anywhere in the world were found in Mumbai, where expats earned US$217,000 annually on average, compared with a global average of U$100,000.

The figures come from an online survey of more than 27,000 expats carried out by YouGov on behalf of HSBC. Of the respondents in Hong Kong, 36 per cent were from the financial services sector.

Why are Hong Kong’s expats still down in the dumps about living in the city?

The inhabitants of Hong Kong and Singapore have long taken pleasure in comparing their cities against each other in everything from cultural highlights to economic performance, while Hongkongers also like to benchmark themselves against mainland Chinese cities.

When it comes to recruitment, however, the comparisons take on more significance than just one-upmanship.

Shanghai even has an official target for expatriate residents. The city’s authorities are aiming to quadruple its expatriate population by 2020, as part of Shanghai’s push to become an international metropolis.

“It is no secret that the world’s global cities rely on expat talent to drive their economies,” said Dean Blackburn, head of HSBC Expat.

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In terms of salaries, those of the expatriate respondents to the survey far exceeded the average salaries of those among whom they have chosen to live.

The median monthly salary in Hong Kong in 2016, the most recent available data, was HK$16,200, according to Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department, equivalent to a yearly salary of US$24,800.

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Money was not the only consideration for the respondents to the HSBC survey. When asked what their host city had to offer expats, 36 per cent of Hong Kong respondents cited the quality of food in the city, the same number the city’s excellence as a base for travel, and 33 per cent its reliable and convenient public transport.

Just 5 per cent cited the cost of living.

In Singapore, 75 per cent referenced the city’s very clean and safe public spaces, and 58 per cent its reliable and convenient public transport.

In Shanghai, public transport (51 per cent) and the quality of the food (43 per cent) were the advantages of living in the city most cited by its expatriate respondents.