Salaries in the host city are on par with what professionals would probably earn in other Western countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. What most people are concerned about when accepting an offer of employment in the host city, however, are the benefits and incentives.
Your salary in the host city should allow you to cover the cost of your housing, school fees, transportation, and other bills and expenses. Some people also choose to hire a domestic helper, something that’s very popular in the host city, and you might want to ensure that your salary will help cover the cost of this as well. Domestic helpers generally cost around HK$4,000 per month.
More than 35% of the host city’s expats make more than HK$1.55 million per year, according to HSBC's Expat Explorer survey. Most of these expats work in the banking and financial services sector while others work in communications, marketing, legal work, human resources, and advertising. Teaching in an international school tends to pay more than being an ESL teacher, which averages around HK$18,000 per month. A mid-level job in banking, on the other hand, can pay around HK$40,000 per month. These amounts are subject to change, of course, and will depend on the employer.
Some employers have started decreasing their benefits packages and, instead, simply started paying their employees a higher salary than what they might have earned in their native countries. This does not always equal to the same, however, and expats often find that housing costs are much higher than they had anticipated.
Medical and dental costs are expenses that should be taken into consideration with expats’ salary packages, too. Medical costs can be very high in the host city and having health insurance is critical. If your employer does offer this as an incentive then it’s important to read the small print to see exactly what your benefits will, and will not, cover.
Although the host city has a lower tax rate than some places, the cost of living can be expensive. A salary and benefits package should reflect this. Some packages still include a stipend for housing, for instance. Even though the housing allowance might not be enough to rent a house, you should ensure that you have enough for an apartment in a good location that is large enough for you and your family. Some companies will allow you to keep the difference between what they allow you and what you actually spend.
In the past, remuneration packages with extended benefits for foreign workers were very popular and one of the biggest incentives for relocating to the host city. It was possible to earn a large salary while having your housing, health insurance, vehicle costs, and even flights home paid for. Some expats were able to put most of their salary in savings so that when they returned to their native countries they had accumulated a good deal of money. However, these are getting increasingly rarer. Those who do find themselves with job offers from the host city employers should check the benefits that are being offered in their employment package carefully.
Housing in the host city can range from HK$10K for a small flat to HK$80K and more for large houses. On average, a two bedroom apartment costs around HK$40,000. Transportation costs must be taken into account as well. Even relying on public transportation and eating most meals at home with little budget for entertainment can cost around HK$17,000 per month. As a result, ensuring that the benefits package includes transportation and housing allowances is essential.
The cost of health care and housing are two of the biggest expenses in the host city. These are also the largest part of the expat’s budget. A benefits packing that includes the cost of housing would be an ideal one. One that included the cost of health insurance, including dental, would be good. Although health costs are lowered once you are able to receive your the host city ID card in 180 days, private health insurance can cover the costs of rooms and treatments in private hospitals which can be more comfortable and convenient. Those with children might also want to see if the company offers a debenture for one of the host city’s international schools which can be very pricey.
Some expats find that if they are frugal they are able to save money and leave the host city with money that they earned. This will almost certainly depend as much on the benefits package as it does the salary that is being offered, however. For instance, many policies do not include the cost of prenatal care or birth.