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Expatriates lured to Southeast Asia

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Expatriates lured to Southeast Asia

In today's uncertain economic climate, many organizations are seeking a competitive advantage by expanding into emerging markets. The economies of Southeast Asia are proving especially lucrative, and millions of expatriate workers are flocking to regions such as Singapore. Many expats choose to live in serviced apartments or corporate housing due to their convenience, comfort and the range of amenities available. In addition to comfortable housing, the overall quality of life in Singapore is attracting a wealthier class of executive, according to iExpats.com.

A reputation for excellence
The news source reports that Singapore tops the list of regions in Southeast Asia preferred by wealthy executives, also known as "mobile millionaires" - individuals with significant personal capital who live and work outside their home countries. According to a recent survey by RBC Wealth Management, 33 percent of wealthy expatriate executives prefer Singapore to any other region in Southeast Asia.

"Singapore has a safe reputation, both for money, and for looking after families," said a spokesperson for RBC, as quoted by the news source. "And the wealthy with international businesses [who] want to care for their families are picking Singapore as the nation that offers them the most."

Almost nine out of 10 survey participants indicated that their quality of life was an overriding consideration when choosing a place to live, and 83 percent of respondents were attracted to Singapore due to its political stability in comparison with other Asian nations.

In addition to wealthier executives, millions of expats come to Singapore every year to live and work. The news source reports that almost 50 percent of the nation's population are expatriates, many of whom work for large international corporations seeking to gain a foothold in the Asian economy.

Regional trends
While Singapore may be popular with wealthy individuals, other Southeast Asian nations are proving equally attractive for increasing numbers of expats. According to Expatriate Healthcare News, Malaysia is becoming one of the most popular destinations for expat workers, due in part to the relative ease with which expats can acquire long-term residency visas.

A significant number of the expats who choose to move to Malaysia come from the U.K., attracted by the climate and overall quality of life. Many choose to stay in furnished apartments or temporary housing until they can get on the property ladder and purchase a long-term home.

Since the launch of a Malaysian government initiative known as "My Second Home" more than 10 years ago, approximately 20,000 people have chosen to move to the country, which offers relative political stability and a good standard of healthcare. In addition, many Malaysians speak English, a major draw for expats moving to Malaysia from the U.K.

Affordable alternatives
While Middle Eastern emirates such as Dubai have long been popular with expatriate workers, the increase in the cost of housing is proving prohibitive for many people.

According to Reuters, the average cost of an apartment in Dubai rose by 13 percent in 2012. Although this may drive demand in the relocation housing market on a temporary basis, many expats are being priced out of the emirate, which may be a factor in the rising popularity of Southeast Asian nations.

The price of apartments in Dubai remains uncertain, even amid plans to build an additional 36,000 units to the market within the next two years.

"Because the best quality [properties] are seeing this demand, they are raising the rest of the market," Matthew Green, head of research & consultancy UAE at CBRE Middle East, told the news source. "Only 20 percent of the sales were through mortgages. So there is some speculation creeping back into the market. We also saw some off plan announcements and we have to keep a watch on this."