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EXPAT Allowances

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Phil Parry

WHILE it needs to be said that not all ex-pats are getting housing allowances these days, and a lot of companies have been phasing them out, they remain common in the Middle East, far more so than in, say, Singapore.

Recent research carried out by the 55 members of the Maritime HR Forum reveals the levels at which housing allowances are being paid to expat staff in shipping (shipowners, managers, trading houses and oil majors).

In Singapore fifty percent of those expats who do receive a housing allowance received SGD36, 000 (USD29, 000) or less, that being the median figure, with the lower quartile at SGD30, 000. There is a big jump to the upper quartile however, at SGD71, 000 (USD57, 000), meaning that for those lucky ex-pats who do still receive housing allowances, one-quarter of them receive more than this.

“We should add the caveat that the market in Singapore is far from uniform, ” said Phil Parry, Chairman of shipping recruitment specialists Spinnaker Consulting Ltd who are secretariat of the Maritime HR Forum. “Having grown so rapidly in recent years, the Singapore market has developed a sporadic approach to expatriate packages. Foreign workers, both OECD and non-OECD nationals, receive a complete mix of packages, from truly ‘local’, to ‘local plus’ (which itself can mean a variety of things, but we think of it as an enhanced look-after-yourself base salary), to ‘expat’ and ‘true expat’, the latter being workers seconded from their home location for a fixed period. So, whilst the data reported is accurate there are others out there who receive an inflated base salary with no formal housing allowance.”

In the Middle East the market is more uniform; old-style expat packages are much more the norm. In the UAE, the median housing allowance figure for expatriates is AED150, 000 (USD41, 000), AED90, 000 (USD24, 500) at the lower quartile and AED200, 000 (USD54, 500) for the upper quartile. Home country location and seniority both have their part to play in terms of where employees sit in the range.  “The irony is that many employers significantly increased their housing allowance shortly before the financial crisis.  Housing costs had risen so sharply that staff were struggling to cope.  It’s not exactly news to report that rents then fell back leaving many employees with a surplus, ” says Phil Parry.  “However, we haven’t seen any of our members or recruitment clients cutting back on their housing allowances.  They know the market is cyclical and we assume that most will simply maintain current levels for some time to come.”

The Maritime HR Forum is a membership association open to shipping employers globally who benchmark salaries, bonuses and benefits for shipping centres around the world. For an information pack, contact advice@shippingjobs.com.

For more information viewers do please contact: Phil Parry, Chairman, Spinnaker Consulting Ltd-Tel: +44 (0) 1702 480 142  email: pparry@shippingjobs.com

About: Spinnaker Consulting Ltd (www.shippingjobs.com) is a dedicated shipping, trading and energy recruitment and executive search specialist. The company has a successful track record since 1997 of filling over 2000 shore-based vacancies from board level downwards in 38 countries across the globe, with a very high level of repeat business. Spinnaker’s consultants each work in specialist teams – Technical, Commercial and Professional Services (insurance, P&I, legal, finance).

Spinnaker has developed recognised expertise for compensation and benefits advice and benchmarking services.  Employers and industry bodies regularly consult Spinnaker for one-off salary reports, research projects, annual salary review consultancy and advice for compensation committees and boards.

Spinnaker also acts as secretariat to the Maritime HR Forum, whose members include a large number of shipowners, shipmanagers, oil companies, and commodity groups whose boards of directors know that reliable salary and benefits data is business critical. The Forum is confidential and works within U.S. anti-trust safe-harbor guidelines. Forum salary reports, annual meetings and surveys on topical issues enable members to formulate effective recruitment, retention and salary policies.

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1 comment

Jalal Hosseini September 5, 2012 - 1:16 PM

Dear Sir/Madam,

How much allowance should be allocated to cover shipping costs? Does this allowance vary based on the location or is it a set amount (e.g. a month’s salary or a specified size container)? Please advise. Thanks.

Best regards,


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