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2-Cent Rant

Malaysia vs Singapore : Which Country Has A Better Standard Of Living?

Is the grass greener on the other side?


Many young Malaysians today are seeking for better career opportunities across the causeway in our neighbouring country, Singapore.

Some choose to apply for a job there immediately after they graduate, while others gradually make the jump after they’ve accumulated a few years of working experience in Malaysia.

With the current exchange rate of the ringgit to the Singapore dollar being what it is today, at 3:1, it is understandable why so many young Malaysians are choosing to jump ship.

However, is the grass really greener on the other side?

Salary In Relation To Living Expenses

If you were to compare dollar to dollar, without taking into account Singapore’s superior currency exchange rate, the pay-scale for fresh grads and various jobs in Malaysia and Singapore is actually pretty similar.

However, if you were to compare spending power in relation to salary and living expenses, then there would be a significant difference in various areas.

#1 Overseas Travel

Working in Singapore would definitely give Malaysians greater spending power when it comes to overseas travel. This is simply because Singapore’s currency is much stronger than Malaysia’s. As a result, you will be able to get much more “bang to the dollar”, so to say.

As a point of comparison, a Malaysian working in Malaysia would feel the strain while holidaying in Australia whereas a Malaysian working in Singapore might not feel the same strain on their wallets while doing the same due to Singapore’s stronger currency.

#2 Hang Out Spots

Dollar for dollar, it is also cheaper to hang out in Singapore if you’re working in Singapore than to hang out in Malaysia while working in Malaysia.

This is because global franchises such as Starbucks and McDonalds tend to charge more or less the same price across the globe in US Dollars.

For example, you can still get a Starbucks drink or McDonalds value meal for less than 10SGD in Singapore but you are likely to have fork out close to RM15 to RM20 for the same in Malaysia. This is also partly due to Singapore’s stronger currency as it would be cheaper for Singapore to import such goods into the country.

Hence, if you are earning the same amount in Ringgit as someone else is in Singapore Dollars, it would be more expensive for you to hang out at your favourite outlets than someone who is working and living in Singapore.

Ease Of Doing Business & Business Opportunities

If you are a business savvy entrepreneur, the story might be a little different.

Although Singapore is rated as one of the easiest places to set up a business in the world, the start-up costs is still considerably much higher than Malaysia.

If you are a Malaysian who has roots in Malaysia, it is always easier to start-up a business at your home base where your network and resources are.

Furthermore, Malaysia, being a developing country, still has many lucrative business opportunities that can be exploited. On the other hand, Singapore, being a developed country where most industries have already been fully developed, will not have as many.

Malaysia also has many other industries that one can venture into with the availability of land and natural resources. Industries such as agriculture and manufacturing are still within reach of the first-time entrepreneur in Malaysia.

Once you become a business owner and start to earn a business income, the standard of living you can potentially stand to enjoy changes dramatically. Technically, the sky is the limit.

If you look at it that way, Malaysia would definitely be the better place to work and live in.

Costs Of Housing

The cost of housing in both countries for the middle class work out to be around the same. In Malaysia, you can get a private property that usually comes with private parking lots for your vehicles. On the other hand, you’ll likely be getting a HDB unit in Singapore that might come with various restrictions and caveats with the same amount of money in Singapore Dollars.

In Malaysia, you can purchase a house at any time as long as you can afford to cough up the down payment and service the loan. On the other hand, if you were to get a HDB unit in Singapore, you’ll have to apply for a unit before you can buy a new house. If you are not married, you’ll then have to wait until 35 before you can get your own BTO flat.

Costs Of Owning A Car

The costs of owning a new car in both countries works out to be around the same. Both are expensive. In Malaysia, you will pay an exorbitant amount in excise taxes, whereas in Singapore, you will pay an exorbitant amount in COE.

However, the difference is that Malaysians have the option of getting a used-car. While you can also get a used car in Singapore, used cars in Singapore can only be driven for as long as their COE is valid, which typically only lasts a further 5 years or so from the time you purchase the used car.

On the other hand, you could buy a 10-year-old car in Malaysia at a much depreciated price and continue using it for another 10 to 15 years until the car becomes unmaintainable.

This way, the cost of owning a car can be significantly lower in Malaysia.

Read Also: Should You Get A New Car Or A Used Car In Malaysia?

Food & Groceries

Due to Singapore’s stronger currency, the price of most groceries is actually much cheaper when compared dollar to dollar. You can get a lot more with 50 SGD in an NTUC FairPrice outlet in Singapore than with RM50 in a supermarket in Malaysia.

In that sense, the cost of buying most essential goods is actually cheaper in Singapore.

Life As A Bachelor

As a bachelor, working and living in Singapore would be like living in paradise. This is because you will be able to earn enough to spend freely and travel freely due to Singapore’s stronger currency.

You will be able to afford to go on more overseas trips and hang out at your favourite Starbucks outlet or cafe more frequently. If you are financially savvy, you would also be able to save up more or even easily finance a property back in Malaysia.

Life With A Family

However, the picture might start to change when you start having a family. Once you start factoring in the costs of owning a house and a car in Singapore, the equation can change drastically.

While some might argue that you don’t really need a car to survive in Singapore, would you really want to travel around with your kids in taxis, buses and MRTs? It would definitely be more convenient and enjoyable to travel around with your family in your own car.

Which Do You Fancy?

Ultimately, it all depends on your preference and what you have in mind. Working in Singapore while you’re young might be a wise decision as you can take advantage of their stronger currency to build your portfolio at a much faster rate and even fully pay off the full amount for a house back in Malaysia in just a couple of years!

However, the grass might not always be greener on the other side once you start factoring in the costs and limitations of owning a house and a car in Singapore.

Furthermore, with talent and hardwork, there exists many opportunities and high-paying jobs in Malaysia as well. Many talented individuals are being paid in US dollars according to global compensation packages as we speak.

Coupled with the lower cost of living in Malaysia when you factor in our weak currency exchange rate, you’ll be able to live like a king if you happen to be one of those fortunate enough to be paid in US dollars.

Besides that, many Malaysian employers and small business owners are also willing to pay over the top for talented employees who do a good job. Often times, their salary can be much higher than what their counterparts are earning in Singapore, even after factoring in exchange rates. They just aren’t publicized, as the arrangement is usually only known to the employer and certain outstanding employees.

If you are an entrepreneur or a business-minded person, Malaysia might prove to be a more lucrative and exciting playing field.

Living and working in Malaysia or Singapore each have their own set of pros and cons. It all depends on what your skills are, what you want achieve and what have you planned out for yourself. We leave it up to you to decide which would be best for you.

Read Also: How Does The Strength Of The Ringgit Affect Our Daily Lives As Malaysians?

DollarsandSense is a website that aims to help people make better financial decisions, one interesting bite-sized article at a time. Like us on Facebook to stay in touch with our latest article.


DollarsAndSense Malaysia is a website that aims to help people make better financial decisions, one interesting, bite-sized article at a time. Like us on Facebook to stay in touch with our latest articles.