English is the dominant language of business, and can be used to communicate throughout all industries as it is an official language of Singapore. Chinese dialects are also widely used, and being bi-lingual can be an advantage. In the Singaporean work culture, punctuality is highly regarded and therefore important. Another quick tip is to avoid intense eye contact with an older person because it is seen as disrespectful.
Singapore has a social security system called the Central Provident Fund (CPF), which requires contribution from both employers and employees. Once in the CPF system, residents receive benefits in retirement, healthcare, home ownership, family protection, and asset enhancement. Monthly contributions to the CPF only begin once a foreigner is a permanent resident, and are deposited into three accounts:
- Ordinary account- savings in this account can be used to buy a home, pay for CPF insurance, make investments and pay for education.
- Special account- savings reserved for old age, contingency purposes and investment in retirement-related financial products.
- Medisave account- savings can be used for hospitalisation expenses and approved medical insurances.
The goal of the CPF is to provide you with retirement income to meet your basic needs in old age including housing and medical expenses. If you leave Singapore permanently, with no intention of returning, you can apply to withdraw your savings.
Working Hours, Salaries, and Holidays
Normal office hours in Singapore are Monday to Friday 9:00am to 1:00pm and from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. There is often a half day on Saturday from 9:00am to 1:00pm, but the maximum required work hours per week are 44. Also, residents are not required to work past the legal retirement age of 60.
Salaries in Singapore are amongst the most competitive in Asia. In 2008 the average salary for a software engineer was S$37,122, S$56,058 for an information technology consultant and S$91,784 for a regional sales manager. These figures are as of June 16th, 2008 and are expected to grow by an average of five percent in 2009 and beyond.
Singapore recognizes eleven public holidays and eight major festivals. The public holidays illustrate the religious and cultural diversity throughout Singapore. Among the public holidays are Easter and Christmas Day, as well as National Day and New Year’s Day. Other major religious holidays include Buddhist Vesak Day, Muslim Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, and Hindu Deepavali. All Chinese, Malay, and Indian festivals are celebrated, and many companies close for the Chinese New Year.
Strikes, slow downs, and workers’ protests are very rare in Singapore. Employment contracts in Singapore are considered to be strict, yet the conditions for hiring and firing are flexible. There are, however, legal clauses that regulate employment contracts. In Singapore, a female employee is entitled to four weeks before and eight weeks immediately after the delivery of a child, totalling twelve weeks of maternity leave. Extensions or flexible work hours can be negotiated with the employer but are not required by law.