Singapore guide

 Singapore guide

                Overview                             Find a job                                   Launch a company

  • History                                                         ►Recruitment                       ♦Chambers of commerce
  • Culture                                                          ►Companies
  • Economy                                                     ►Outplacement
  • Schools                                                          ►Jobs websites
  • Practical life                                                  ►Regulation
  • 3 days in Singapore                                      ►Visa

                    Networking                               Studies                                        Going further


Singapore, city of the lion, is plebiscited by expatriates who feel easily at home while living in the heart of Asia. Living conditions are very comfortable, with a mix of western influences and of vivid traditions (Singapore ranks 1rst amongst Asian cities for its quality of life- ECA 2008). The City-State is a mosaic of cultures with Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western festivals all the year round, with a Formula 1 Grand Prix since 2008, and enjoying an increasingly bustling cultural life. Life is peaceful and secure. The frameworks are excellent, and professional opportunities attractive. Singapore moreover is a fabulous platform wherefrom multiplying travels across the region.

Geographical situation:

  • Area: 693 km2


  • Republic of Singapore
  • President: Dr Tony Tan
  • Prime Minister: Lee Hsien Loong - People's Action Party (PAP)
  • Capital: Singapore
  • National day: August 9th
  • Symbol: the Lion (force, courage and excellence)


  • Currency: Singapore dollar (S$ ou SGD)
  • PIB: 161.347 Millions $
  • PIB/hab: 48.900 $
  • Growth rate: 1,2% (2008); 7,7% (2007); 8,2% (2008)
  • Growth estimates 2009: -2 à -5%
  • Unemployment rate (2008):2,3%


  • Population (2009):4.657.542 inhabitants
  • Foreigners represent 30,9% of the active population.


  • 4 official languages in Singapore: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamoul. Malay is the national language. English is the business language. Mandarin is the mother tongue for a large proportion of Singaporeans with a chinese origine (3/4 of the population).


  • Buddhism, christianism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism

More information on the country:


The name of Singapore (litterally the city of the Lion) appears for the first time in the malayan annals, written in the XVIIth century, to relate the story of the Malayan Monarchy.

According to this document, Singapore would have been so called by Parameswara, Governor of Sumatra in the early XVth century, because he thought to have seen a 3 colors lion, a legendary animal in the Hindu mythology.
Parameswara became King in the northern province of the peninsula and created the Malayan empire of Malacca.The empire, at this stage, encompasses Malaysia, Singapore and a large part of Sumatra. When portugues inaded Malacca in 1511, the sultan fled to the south of Johor, where he reinstated a new empire. 
The sultanate of Johor was weakened by numerous conflicts with Portuguese, Dutch and Bugis from Sulawesi. At the end of the XVIIIth century, Johor and Singapore were under the Dutch ruling, although the Malayan Royal family was still governing the country. Dutch established ports in the Riau Islands and the Malayan empire fall into abeyance.

An english port

In 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in the strait of Singapore, the isalnd was covered with wild vegetation and accounted for 1000 inhabitants sharing the space with tigers and wild boars.
Sir Stamford Raffles (A Governor for the British East India Company) was rapidly convinced that Singapore was the ideal location to establish a British settlement and challenge the Dutch domination.
In March 1819, he signed a treaty with the Sultan of Johor which gave the British East India Company, the right to establish a commercial settlement in Singapore. A free port, Singapore grew rapidly and attracted merchants from everywhere: Europe, Middle East, India, China and Malaysia.
In 1826, Singapore, Malacca and Penang were organized in the Straits community. In 1860, Singapore's population had considerably increased and accounted for 80 000 inhabitants (of which 2/3 of Chinese origin). In 1867, the strait became a British colony. With the opening of the Suez canal, the importance of the port of Singapore increased: the strait of Malacca became the easiest way for the rubber trade in extreme east.
Singapore didn't take part to the first World War and the island was a refuge for many new immigrants. the latest, coming from Europe, brought along new habits and customs that participated to the local melting pot. The largest community immigrants was chinese. In 1930, China tried to limitate the number of men who could emigrate. As a result numerous unmarried women arrived. They settled and married local Chines inhabitants.
During the Japanese expansion in Asia, the British transformed Singapore in a military bastion. But the fortifications were not successful in retaining the japanese invasion in February 1942. At the end of the war, Singapore came back to being a British Colony. 

March to independence

In 1946, Great Britain ended the Straits Community to create a unified Malaysia. The English had rapidly to deal with singaporeans demands for independence.
In 1948, Singaporeans obtained the implementation of a legislative council and the election of a Prime Minister. In 1957,Singaporeans sent a delegation, including a young sollicitor, Lee Kuan Yew, which successfully demanded new concessions on the way to indépendence. In 1959, Lee Kuan Yew, leader of the PAP (People's Action Party)became the first Prime Minister of the Singaporean history.


In 1963, Singapore became independent within a community created with Malaysia (independent since 1957). The union between the 2 countries didn't last and Singapore regained its sovereignty on August, 9 1965.
Lee Kuan Yew remained prime minister until December 1990, when Goh Chok Tong succeeded to him. Since 2004, it is Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, who leads the country.

Books on Singapore's history

  • Singapore Struggle for success- John Drysdale


Singapore's cultural wealth is due to its diversity, with its very important population of chinese origin and large malayan and indian communities.

For the expatriate, Singapore is also remarkable for the its large western expatriates communities: more than 20000 British, 14000 Americans and 10000 Australians. The French community includes 5000 people, tantamount to the german one. Italians, Swedish, Russians and new Zealanders represent each a community with more than a thousand members. Belgians are 700 and Spanish 500.

Main communitiess

  • Chinese (76,8%)
  • Malays (13,9%)
  • Indians (7,9%)
  • Others (1,4%)


  • Chinese: Chinese New Year, Spring Festival (Where ancestors are honored), Vesak day, dragon boats festival, ghosts festival, Moon festival.
  • Hindus: Thaipusam, Navarathri, Deepavali (light festival), Thimithi (stepping on embers)
  • Muslims: Hari Raya Pusa (end of Ramadan), Hari Raya Haji (pilgrimage to Mecqua)
  • Christians: Easter, Christmas
  • National day: 9th of August, indépendance day celebration


Weddings, births and burials are celebrated according to each community's traditions.


Peranakan food (nonya), brought by first chinese immigrants in the straits of Penang, Malacca and Singapore: a mix of chinese and Malayan culture.

Hawkers, are open food courts with lots of little shops where one can choose between chinese, indian and malayan food specialties. A way of having lunch outdoor much appreciated by singaporeans.

Singapoureans love to eat outdoor: many have breakfast on their way to the office, have lunch with colleagues and dine, along with their extended family, in hawkers or with take away food. Singaporeans appreciate these lunch places as opportunities to eat well and exchange with each others

Singapore's great men

  • Sir Stamford Raffles, who, in 1819, established the first settlement on behalf of the East India British Company.
  • Lee Kwan Yew, the founding father. He created the PAP, People's Action Party,drove his country to independence and became the first Singapore Prime Minister. He remained in this function until 1990, when he passed on the reins to Goh Chok Tong, while remaining very influent in his quality of Minister Mentor. Since 2004, it is Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kwan Yew's eldest son, who has been Singapore's Prime Minister.


  • The nation, a cement for the singaporean society: tolerance, integration policy.
  • Strong family and cross generational cohesion
  • Respect for authority
  • Superstition


Non verbal communication

Social rules: give and receive with both hands, especially when exchanging business cards. Business cards (mingpian) are a must in Singapore. Il is essential to pay them careful attention. Take off your shoes when entering in private homes.

Gestures to avoid: finger pointing, showing the back of one's shoes, touching chidren's head.

Loosing face

An essential concept in Asia. Avoid to provoke somme one loose face by openly over-challenging him or putting him in a humiliating position. You would be cause of his losing face and would lose your own credibility and consideration.

Icons and tabous

Sensitive subjects: political system and death penalty.

The flag: composed of 2 horizontal sections. red is a symbol for universal fraternity ; white stands for purity and virtue. the moon and the stars represent the emrgence of a young nation.

The Merlion: associating a lion head and a mermaid body. the Merlion statue, overseeing the bay, is a symbol of the City State.

More information on etiquette and business culture:

the HSBC guide Country files- Singapore offers very interesting snapshots:

  • etiquette: meeting people, gift giving, entertaining & dining, tipping, faux pas
  • Doing business: hours of business, business cards & attires, entertaining, business gifts, business meetings, negotiating, employment law.



  • Tanamera- Noel Barber
  • Singapore swing- John Malathronas



From the moment it became independent onward, Singapore has experienced a sustained growth which made the City-State one of the 4 Asian dragons, together with Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

Quality of the economic environment

Singapore could not count on its scarce natural resources to pave the foundation of its economy. It inherited of a privileged geographic location for trade and marine activities. The Country's governement managed to provide foreign investors and entrepreneurs with an exceptionnally faborable environment: political stability, social peace, reliable regulations, good financial and banking system, skilled workforce and excellent technological framework. Singapore thus attracted numerous multinational companies which set up their regional headquarters and plants locally.

High value added specialties

Taking its large neighbour's (China, India) economic growth into account, Singapore rapidly disengaged from standard manufacturing, requiring abundant manpower sources, and invested massively in highly capitalistic sectors: Health and life sciences, biotechnology, Information technology ...
Singapore's economy is currently founded on 3 pilars: Manufacturing, financial activities & BtoB services, transport & communication.

A rapid and steady growth

From 1965 until 1997,Singapore enjoyed a yearly growth rate exceeding 8%.
In 1997, the country had to deal with the Asia crisis, to which it rather better resisted than its neighbours. In 2001, Singapore was impacted by the burst of the technological bubble, followed, in 2003, by the avian flu epidemy. The growth rate dwindled and even turned red (in 1998 and 2001) but also incorporating fastuous period : +9,6% in 2000, +8,9% in 2004, +7,7% in 2007, +8,2% in 2008.
Due to its being highly dependent on foreign exchanges, Singapore's economy was dramatically impacted par the recent crisis, but steady growth was renengaged as early as Q4 2009. Investments in new ecomic sectors and infrastructures are continuously being made, the financial sector indirectly have taken advantage of the situation in the US and in Europe, and the Government voted important budgets to enhance singaporean workers' level of qualification and facilitate their adaptation to the evolving needs of the economy.

An attractive business climate

Singapore is implementing an extremely attractive economic policy with a global strategic vision on the mid and long term.
Individuals and companies take adavntage of low taxes: the income tax rate is capped at 22% for individuals, company profit tax rate is capped at 20% and GST is at 5,5%)
Singapore is seeking to drive foreign investments towards new strategic sectors organized in clusters.

Economic sectors:

  • Information Technology. At the heart of the Singapore Government's industrial strategy. The market for equipments is dominating, followed by telecommunications, telecommunication services, softwares, computer services and content management. Singapore's advantages:  a highly qualified manpower, its harbour installations. Singapore is positionning itself as regional hub providing electronic components that are assembled in Malaysia, The Philippines and Thailand, prior to being shipped to western countries.
  • Equipment: petrochemicals, aeronautic, shipyards, environment, biotechnology
  • Consumer goods: food, pharmaceutical products, cosmetic, Textile, housing and decoration
  • Services: banking and financial services, insurance, tourism

More information on Singapore's economy and its buoying segments:

3 days in Singapore

Places to visit:

  • Chinatown: Sri Mariamman temple,...

  • Little India: Mustapha center

  • Arab street: textile shops, Sultan Mosque ...

  • Botanic garden

  • Holland village

  • Orchard road, Malls, hotel Raffles...

Orchard road

  • Financial district

  • Chinese and Japanese garden

  • Bukit Timah Nature Reserve


What to see:

  • Black&white: traditional houses of Singapore

  • MICA Building (Ministry of Culture and Information)

  • Clark quay

  • Marina bay

  • The esplanade: opera and theatre nested in a durian shaped building, a icon of the City State.



  • Asian civilisation Museum (1 empress pl)
  • Singapore Art Museum (71 Bras Basah Road)
  • Chinatown heritage center (48 Pagoda St)


  • Sentosa island

  • Battle box, in Fort Canning park
  • Zoo and it's night safari (80 Mandai Lake Rd)
  • Jurong bird park

Finding a job in Singapore

Even in a period of international economic difficulties, Singapore remains a very attractive place. More than 4000 MNC's have established their regional Headquarters in Singapore. The Health and life sciences sector, IT and telecommunications, to quote a few, are still busy recruiting. In the banking sector, the outlook is paradoxically relatively positive due to the relocation in Singapore of finnacial firms and talents from the US and Great Britain.


Job hunting in Singapore


There are no particular format for the CV in Singapore. The American influence is though perceptible. A clue is to culturally adapt the CV content depending on the targeted company's origin and culture. It is essential to take care of the presentation (simplicity and lisibility), to concentrate on achievements rather than merely describing “held positions”, and, above all, to be cristal clear about your professional projects and the job you are looking for.

Compensation & benefits

Tips for negotiating the compensation & benefits package. As housing prices have been sky rocketing recently, housing allowance is an essential aspect to take into account while negociating an expatriation package. Company car is also an important point. Although public transports are very good and taxis are cheap, having one’s own car remains a must to go here and there in Singapore. In contradiction on what can be read in various guides, cars are not seldom in Singapore. The overall automotive park is only watch with much attention.


It is useful to know that employers are not obliged to offer any kind of severance plan to their employees. Severance package is therefore to be negotiated in the work contract. The work contract is allthemore important that labour laws in Singapore only applies to employees earning less than 1600 S$. In case of dispute, the work contract is the only document to be referred to.

More information on job market trends in Singapore :


Visa and work pass

Non resident Foreigners who want to work in Singapore must obtain a work permit or a work pass .

Employment pass.

It is attributed to expatriates being assigned to Singapore by their company. Mais The Employment pass presents one major drawback: it only lasts as long as the work relation. In case of termination, EP Holders and their family must leave the country within 15 days.

There are 3 categories of Employment pass depending on the applicants'level of compensation:

  • P1 Pass : for candidates with a gross montly salary of more than 7000 SGD;
  • P2 Pass : for candidates with a gross montly salary between 3500 and 7000 SGD;
  • P3 Pass : for candidates with a gross montly salary between 2500 and 3500 SGD.

Dependent pass.

The Dependent pass (DP) is attributed to spouses of EP holders. This visa authorize spouses to work provided that their employer has filed a "letter of consent"to the  Ministry of Manpower. With such a visa, it is also possible a company, at least within the "sole proprietorship"status, which provides the new entrepreneur with the pleasure of filing his own "letter of consent".

The validity of the letter of consent ceases in the following situations:

  • When the dependant pass is cancelled
  • When the EP holder is no longer employed by the company that had sponsored him.

In case of job termination, EP holders must cancel their EP within 7 days after the end of their work contract. They can at this stage remain in Singapore within the framework of a long visit visa, which nevertheless won't be able to last more than 30 days.

S Pass

S Pass are attibuted to foreign workers whose monthly compensation exceeds a minimum of 1800 SGD. Applications are approved based on a multiple criteria points system: salary, academic background, qualification, skills, job type and professional experience.
Companies are limited in the number of S Pass holders they can employ. The proportion of S Pass holders, as compared to the whole company's headcount, should not exceed 25%.
S Pass holders whose monthly compensation exceeds 2500 GD can file a demand for a dependent pass for their family. S Pass holders with a monthly compensation of less than 2500 SGD are not allowed to bring their family along.

In case of job termination, S pass holders must cancel their EP within 7 days after the end of their work contract. They can at this stage remain in Singapore within the framework of a long visit visa, which nevertheless won't be able to last more than 30 days.

Long visit pass

It concerns unmarried spouses of EP holders, unmarrieddaughters being more than 21 years old, children with disability, stepchildren, parents and stepparents.

Entre pass :

For entrepreneurs who are not EP holders. Applicants must submit a detailed business plan for their future activity. Entrepass is only attributed for a 1 year period and is renewed in consideration of the company's actual financial results.

Personalized Employment Pass (PEP).

PEP is a new pass aimed at retaining the best talents in Singapore by reducing redtape burden and administrative insecurity. Contrary to EP, PEP allows its holders to remain in Singapore between two jobs, for a maximum period of 6 months. PEP is attributed to EP holders depending on their merits. It is attributed only once, for a period of 5 years with no extension possibility. The idea is to incite highly qualified foreign talents to ultiumately file a demand for becoming Permanent Residents.

Permanent resident.

Becoming a permanent resident permanent is an interesting option. But it comes with a substantial constraint, at least for male children, who will have to do their military duties in Singapore.
More information on visas: Ministry of Manpower

Employment of spouses: check the Singapore situation on the Permits Foundation website, a foundation to promote amongst States, the spouses'right to exert a local professional activity.


Banking & Finance


Communications & Media



Information Technology

Shipping Companies:

Offshore and Marine Engineering:

Tourism (Integrated Resorts):

Work regulation

The Singapore work regulation, employer friendly and flexible, is based on the 1968 Employment Act, inspired by the British Common Law.

The Employment Act concerns all employees with the notable exception of:

  • Executives and managers
  • Sailors
  • Home workers
  • persons with a status assimilated to Public Service

Dispositions on vacations and work hours apply only to (manual) workers with a growth monthly salary not exceeding 4800 SGD and to employees with a growth monthly salary not exceeding 2000 SGD


Parties to the contract are free to organize their contractual relations according to they wish. In principle, dispositions relatives to the employee should not be less favorable than the applicable lawc(Employment Act).
The work contract is written and comprehends the following clauses:

  • definition of the parties
  • job description
  • Employee mission and responsibilities
  • Starting date
  • Trial period (from 1 to 6 months depending on the employee's level of qualification).
  • Number of vacation days
  • Termination of the work contract


The Central Provident Fund (CPF) is a social coverage savings based system which includes health insurance, disability, pension and housing for the member and his beneficiaries, as well as a saving plan invested in stocks.
Contribution to the CPF are restricted to foreigners with the Permanent Resident status.

At the end of their stay in Singapore, foreign workers can withdraw the money they have invested in the CPF. But if they want to come back, they will have to refund the whole original capital before being allowed to resume contribution to the CPF.
Foreign workers who do no contribute to CPF must subscribe a private insurance. Be aware of hospital costs that can be very high in Singapore.


A fiscal resident in Singapore must pay taxes on all revenues originating from Singapore or that have been transfered in Singapore.
The income tax rate is amongst the world's lowest. It can vary from 2% on the first 7 500$S part of the revenue to 28% for the part exceeding 400.000 $. Fiscal deductions are allowed in various situations (beneficiaries, training fees, life insurance premium).

Work hours

Work hours are limited to 44 hours a week, split on 5 days 1/2, with daily schedules from 8:30 to 17:00 and from 8:30 to 13:00 on saturdays. International companies are usually organized on a 5 days week, with daily schedules from 9:00 to 17:00.

Vacation and hollidays

Workers in Singapore are legally provided with 7 days of vacation from the first year, and 14 Days when they reach 8 years of seniority. In practice most companies are giving a 14 days vacation to their employees.
There are 11 hollidays each year.
Sick leaves should not exceed 14 days per Year. There are allowed only to employees with a 6 month seniority and upon presentation of a health certificate.
Maternity leave lasts 8 weeks. A 3 days paternity leave is granted by some companies.
Exceptional leaves are granted in case of wedding or decease.

Trade unions

Singapore allows Trade unions in all sectors but : police,  civil defense, Defense ministry,..


(MOM- 2009)


  • Local: 1.936.000 (65%)
  • Foreign: 1.053.000 (35%)

Employment by industry (%)

  • Manufacturing: 18,1
  • Construction: 12,9
  • Others: 0,7
  • Services: 68,3


  • wholesale & retail trade: 13,6
  • Transport @ storage: 6,5
  • Hotels & Restaurants: 6
  • Information & Communications: 2,9
  • Financial services: 5,5
  • Business services: 12,9
  • Community, social & personal services: 20,8


Hours worked

  • Weekly paid hours worked: 46
  • Weekly paid overtime hours: 3,4

Labour turnover

  • Monthly recruitment rate: 2,2
  • Monthly resignation rate: 1,8

Labour Relations

  • Employers Trade Unions: 3 (2571 members)
  • Employees Trade Unions: 65 (526 000 members)


  • Workplace fatal accident: 70
  • Accident frequency rate: 1,8


Singaporean companies


APRIL- Asia Pacific Resources International- Fiber plantations/ Paper

CapitaLand - Real Estate

City development - Real Estate developper- Commercial centers ownership

Creative Technology - Digital Entertainment products for PC

DBS Group - Banking

Far East Organization - Owner of Fullerton Hotel- Real Estate

Flextronics - Electronics

Frazer & Neave - Food & Beverage

Keppel Corporation - Solutions to the Offshore & Marine Industries, Sustainable Environment and Urban Living.

Mobile1 - Telecommunication

NOL - Neptune Orient Lines - Containers transportation & Logistics
► Careers at NOL

OCBC- Overseas Chinese Banking - Banking

Olam International-  Supply chain management of agriculture products and food ingredients.

ST Engineering - Singapore Technologies - Aerospace & Defense

Sembcorp - Capital goods
►Careers at SembCorp

Singapore Airlines - Transportation

SPC - Singapore Petroleum Company - Oil & Gas

Singapore Press Holding- Strait times, The Sunday times, Business Times, Mypaper,...

Singtel - Telecommunication

Starhub - telecommunication

Temasek Holdings - Asia Investment House headquartered in Singapore

UOB - United Overseas Bank- Banking



Singapore, a city with a large proportion of expatriates, is enjoying a lot of clubs and association providing excellent opportunities to mix up and network.

Clubs and associations

Expatriates networks

  • Singapore- a community with 30 000 members in the world (essentially in Asia Oceania) organizing happy hours once a month.

Starting a business

Creating one’s own business remains a valuable solution for those who want to take advantage of their expatriation to invent or pursue an entrepreneur career. The context is generally favourable, even though slight differences may exist from one sector to the other (do not hesitate to rely on the multiple chambers of commerce’ services or on dualexpat network resources). Singapore's environment is particularly business friendly: simple creation procedures, low taxes, investments facilities.

Individuals can easily set up their own business under the sole proprietorship status. This company status is particularly suited for consulting activities which do not require much capital investment. The shortcomings are that companies registered under this status cannot recruit. If business is brisk, one can create a private limited company (PTE) or a partnership. Constraints are heavier (chartered accountant; One of the director-creators must be a Singapore resident: the company's future shouldn't be dependent of a visa). This kind of structure enables to limit financial risks, to recruit employees or find investors.

More information

Studying & training

Higher education

The singaporean Higher education system is one of the best in Asia. 

  • 3 national universities: the National University of Singapore (NUS), The Nanyang technological university (NTU) and the Singapore management university (SMU)
  • 5 polytechnic and technical education institute (ITE), schools specialized in sport, mathematics, sciences and arts.
  • Numerous foreign institutions. The MIT, Stanford, INSEAD, ESSEC, the Wharton School of Business, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the technical University of Eindhoven,  the technical University of Munich, the University of Shanghai...
  • Private schools (more than 300), often in partnership with american,british or australian institutions, but which are not all recognized by the Singaporean State.

Good to know: academic year is from January to November.
More information on studying in Singapore : Ministry of Education website

Vocational training

  • Community centers

Learning english

  • British Council
  • Berlitz

Learning mandarin

  • New concept Mandarin
  • Chinese Chamber of commerce

Magazine SINGAPOUR avec

Le magazine SINGAPOUR est le supplément papier du site Il est depuis le 1er janvier 2017 publié 2 fois par an  - en mai et novembre - et mis à disposition de nos lecteurs gracieusement dans les magasins, écoles et institutions dont la liste figure ici.
Chaque numéro peut être consulté en ligne sur ISSUU (cliquer sur les vignettes des magazines pour accéder à votre magazine en ligne).