Ciara Kenny

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Destination in Focus: Singapore

Practical advice on visas, finding a job and a place to live in Singapore, with useful links to Irish organisations, recruitment agencies, social and business networks and emergency assistance, written by Philip Galloway and Isa Schaller of Gateway Singapore.

Thu, Feb 16, 2012, 01:00


Written by Philip Galloway and Isa Schaller of Gateway Singapore.

The Singapore Merlion. Photos courtesy of Gateway Singapore

With a wealth of opportunities on offer, a growing number of Irish professionals have made Singapore their new home. According to the Embassy of Ireland in Singapore, 2000 Irish men and women reside in here, mainly attracted by the abundance of banking positions on offer.

Singapore has not been totally sheltered from the downturn, according to Jennifer Ward from Sigmar Recruitment: “While Singapore is renowned as one of the world’s leading financial centres, recruitment in this area has slowed recently due to world markets.  The IT sector here however is the leading sector with demands across all industries and at all levels.  This is set to continue throughout the rest of year.”

The jobs market as a whole is strong still, especially in engineering, life sciences, oil & gas, and ICT. This is reflected in the unemployment rate that hovers close to the 2% mark, which is one of the lowest in the world. Just to give an idea of what that entails, the Jakarta Globe reported that Singapore had more jobs than jobseekers in the market in June 2011.

Singapore, an English-speaking city-state, has bold plans for the future. With hyper-developed infrastructure, Singapore puts many of Europe’s top cities to shame. Everything works like clockwork. The soul of this small country lies in its incredible diversity: people from every walk of life can find a reason to love it here. This is reflected in the space-age skyscrapers in the Central Business District, the historic shophouses in the neighbouring Colonial District, red lanterns in Chinatown, dense jungle in Bukit Timah, and the artificial sands of Sentosa Island.

The expat community here is one of the largest per capita in the world, with 27% of the entire population being non-residents. With such a large volume of expats in the same boat, Singapore is an easy place to meet like-minded people. The Irish Chamber of Commerce and St Patrick’s Society of Singapore are very active Irish communities, and if you’re interested in a more international crowd then Internations should be your first choice. They run monthly social functions in top venues in Singapore. As for Irish sporting clubs, there is the Gaelic Lions GAA club, and even an Irish Dragon Boat team.

The food here is a major draw. There can’t be many places in the world where the food gets this good, or varied. There is an eatery out there for every budget, from noodles at one of the many hawker stalls to fine dining at some of the top (and most expensive) Western and Asian restaurants in the world. The Chili Crab is a must-try for all who visit Singapore.

Leave your woollies at home because you’re not going to need them out here. With a year-round temperature range between 23 and 31 degrees, the weather is also a big motivator.

The Marina Bay Sands and the waterfront

The Marina Bay Sands and the waterfront

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) website gives details of the various visas that a foreigner can apply for. In general the employer will arrange this for you. Visa restrictions are getting tighter as of January 2012.

The most likely visa that you will be applying for is the Employment Pass for full-time employment.

There are three different Employment Passes: the Q1, the P2 and the P1- depending on Salary level. The most pertinent requirements are a recognized degree and an offering salary in excess of S$3000 (for Q1), S$4500 (for P2), or S$8000 (for P1) per month.

For those looking to do internships or short-term work, there is also a Training Work Permit and Training Employment Pass which allows one to stay in the country for a maximum of six months.

For those moving over with their spouse, and their children (under 21) there is the Dependent’s Pass.

Entrepreneurs that are setting up a company in Singapore may be entitled to the Entrepass. For details on the requirements, click here.

There are some fees attached to the passes: successful applicants will pay between S$140 and S$200 in handling and administration fees.

For other visas, and for more information, see the MOM website here.

Find a Job

Singapore Business District at night

Taking the step into the jobs market in Singapore is in many ways like taking a step back in time to the days of the roaring Celtic tiger.

Most expats come to Singapore with roles at European or American multinational firms but it is more and more common for expats to join Asian firms. There are numerous recruitment consultants in Singapore but many will only offer work to locals. Morgan McKinley, Berkley Recruitment, and a number of others offer many positions to Irish professionals. Contact details are provided below.

Local job sites include JobsDB and Job Street however not all their jobs will be open for overseas applicants.

Whatever your field may be, it’s worth investigating. But James Mc Ewin, Associate Director from Marks Sattin notes that for non-technical areas like Sales and Marketing: “Hiring managers are not discriminatory towards nationality – if you have the skills and attitude, then you will be considered. However, many hiring managers ideally want to see local knowledge on CVs”. James adds: “In banking and finance, two key areas for 2012 will be around Risk and Compliance and Product Control. Financial Institutions are open to overseas candidates as many of the skills required are not ‘geographically specific’”. This also applies for other technical areas like pharmaceuticals, IT, healthcare and engineering: Singapore’s construction industry is booming.

Skills in Demand

The Ministry of Manpower has made a ‘Skills- in-Demand’ list emphasizing roles in ICT, healthcare and engineering, among others that welcome foreigners. One consideration is that the role you apply for will have to pay you in excess of S$3000 in order for your Employment Pass to go through. There is no minimum wage in Singapore.

The Interview Process

The interview process for jobs in Singapore can take a number of forms, but most people go through multinational firms or recruitment agencies. This may require a visit to the Dublin or London branch for an interview, or in some cases going to Singapore for an interview. An approach that is growing in popularity in transnational recruitment is to arrange an online interview. Interviewing firms like Irish-based Sonru have opened this possibility.

Income and Health

Your disposable income will be much the same in Singapore, if not greater than in other international hubs. Though the salaries are a little lower, the taxes compensate for this substantially – Singapore has one of the lowest income tax structures in the world. The tax system is a progressive one, starting at 0% for those earning less than S$22,000 and rising up to a maximum of 20% for those earning S$320,000 per annum. A flat rate of 15% or the resident rates are given to non-residents (those staying for less than 183 days) – whichever results in a higher tax amount on income from employment. If you earn S$50,000 a year you’ll pay around 2.5% tax, according to Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. You can also calculate your own salary here.

Healthcare facilities in Singapore rank among the best in the world. It is very much advised that those travelling to Singapore get Global Health Insurance before they leave Ireland, in case there is an emergency.

Find a Place to Live

Old and new Singapore

It is becoming rarer and rarer that the employer sorts out accommodation for the newly arrived jobseeker. On some occasions the employer will arrange temporary accommodation, for around a month. Those considering the move should be prepared to take the responsibility themselves. Having said that, renting in Singapore is very straightforward and the choice is fantastic. The requirements for renting a house is generally one month’s deposit, passport copy and visa documentation.

Price is a major consideration as Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. Though, if you’re coming from Dublin you will find accommodation here decidedly good value for what you get. Prices range hugely depending on standard and location of the development. The price for a 2-bed apartment close to Orchard Road (the city’s main shopping street) will cost around S$4000 (€2400), but by going a little further out to the likes of Holland Village (popular and relatively central area with a large expat community) will bring that cost down closer to S$2000 per month for the same. Websites like Property Guru are a good place to start searching.

There are two different types of residences, Private and HDB (Housing Development Board) residences. The private residences will often have facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms etc. The HDBs on the other hand often don’t have the same type of facilities but can still be really good value for money and furnished to a very high standard. Around 80% of homes in Singapore are HDB.

Nowhere on the island is too isolated: the MRT and bus network means getting to the centre is never difficult, wherever you are. Many expats live about 10/15 minutes out from the city centre.

Another option is to take a room in someone else’s apartment. Easy Room Mate is a principle portal for this service. For a decent room in a relatively popular and central area (like Holland Village) you would be looking at around S$1000 (€600) and S$1500 (€900) per month. This is also a great way to meet locals and expats alike. The same rules apply for taking a room as renting an entire apartment, but by taking this route you’ll also avoid agency fees.

When looking for a flat it’s important to check out a few options as prices vary wildly. You could end up saving yourself quite a bit by being patient.

To kit out that your home there are a number of options ranging from affordable to luxurious. Renting furnished apartments are very common and the standard of furnishing is often very high. If you still prefer to have your own furniture then there are two IKEA outlets and a number of high-end options spread across the city.

Cultural Considerations

Because of Singapore’s multicultural history and presence, cultural considerations are less comprehensive than in other Asian business hubs like China and Japan.  Guanxi, or the development of interpersonal relationships is still very important in Singapore – even today.

The exchange of business cards is an integral part of the business process and is seen as an exchange of gifts – especially amongst the Chinese. It may be taken as an offence if you do not provide a business card in exchange for your acquaintance’s card.

In general, as long as one holds an acceptable level of respect (from an Irish perspective) then there is little to be concerned about.


The Embassy of Ireland, Singapore – Emergency assistance for Irish citizens can be obtained here.

Irish News

Although the Irish population in Singapore is rapidly growing, there still is no central news portal for Irish affairs in Singapore. The Irish Chamber of Commerce in Singapore provides news on Irish business in Singapore.

Recruitment sources

Morgan McKinley – Global Recruitment Consultants looking for professionals in Banking, Technology, Finance and Accountancy, Risk, Legal & Compliance and Sales & Marketing. Contact Chris Jay for more advice.

Berkley Recruitment – Berkley operates from offices in Dublin and Cork, and established in Asia in 2008, choosing Singapore due to the similarities with Ireland and to initially service complimentary clients in the Pharmaceutical/Life Science sector and technology sector. Contact Judy Chan for more information.

Marks Sattin – A specialist financial recruitment consultancy.  For details on market sentiment and salary guidelines, download their latest market survey from the website. Please contact James McEwin for more advice.

Sigmar Recruitment -  Sigmar has recently set up an operation in Singapore and are focusing on the following sectors: Banking and Financial, IT, Accounting and Finance, HR, Legal and Compliance and Sales and Marketing. Contact Jennifer Ward for more advice on working in Singapore.

Charterhouse – With a database of global clients across industries, Charterhouse places mid to senior level candidates on a permanent and contract basis. Contact Cheryl for more information.

Hays Recruitment – Global Recruitment firm with a wide range of roles available to overseas applicants.

Kerry Consulting – One of the leading recruitment firms in Singapore specialising in Banking, Financial and Human Resources recruitment.

Talent Logic – Some examples of current openings which foreigners might be interested in applying include Regional Sales Director for an American software company and Creative Director for an events company etc.

JobsDB and JobStreet – Online recruitment portal for all skilled job sectors.

Gateway Singapore – Growing job selection in a variety of sectors. Advice on living and working in Singapore. Contact Philip Galloway for moving advice from someone who has done it quite recently.

Business & Social Networks

The St. Patrick’s Society of Singapore – the Social Connection for the Irish Community in Singapore.

Irish Chamber of Commerce, Singapore – The recognised forum for people with an interest in the development of business ties between Ireland and Singapore, the gateway to Asia.

Enterprise Ireland – The government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets.

Irish Sporting Clubs in Singapore

The Gaelic Lions GAA Club – Has Men, Women and Junior teams.

Gaelic Dragons Dragon Boat Team –  Silver medal holders at the annual Singapore River Regatta

Gateway Singapore is an Irish-owned but Singapore-based Careers & Lifestyle publication for those moving to, or based in Singapore. The organisation provides comprehensive advice on all the things you need to know before you make the big move. For those who have moved, we provide information on Meeting People, Eating Out, Events and Things to Do.

Also, Gateway Singapore has a growing portfolio of jobs for Irish candidates. To find out more, visit or contact us at Also follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@gatewaysing).