Global Healthcare Sectors | Singapore


Fraser Clarke

Following the success of our Global Healthcare Issues series we’re pleased to bring you the latest in our exclusive new collection. Global Healthcare Sectors.

In this series we will guide you through the structure behind the healthcare sectors we most commonly deal with. We’ll look at the private and public areas, what positions are especially in demand, the funding models, and how to go about successfully securing a move.


In the eighth installment we’ll look at one of the world’s most unique countries. A location that is tiny in size, but massive in influence. Boasting an incredible standard of living, a hugely competitive and motivational working environment and space age technology - Singapore.

Few locations can offer the experience that living in the ‘red dot’ can, and this makes it a must for any physicians looking for a truly life changing move.

Where am I likely to work?

The answer here highlights just how unique a location Singapore is. As the world’s only island-city state you will be working in...Singapore. The entire country is just 719km² - and it’s possible to drive from one side of the island to the other in under an hour!

In terms of hospitals there are a range of public and private facilities located in the country, all of which provide a staggeringly high standard of care. Mount Elizabeth Hospital is considered the most prestigious private facility, however this is subjective! Tan Tock Seng and the KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital in the public sector are also some of the major employers.

What sector will I be working in?

As with all countries the system is split into public and private, but that is where the similarities end. Patients are free to choose the providers they use within the public and private systems, and are also allowed to go into any clinic or hospital, public or privately owned, and ask for a consultation.

There is therefore a close link between the public and private healthcare sectors, with the difference in the standard of care being provided being negligible. Jobs in the private sector can often be more appealing, but competition for them can be extremely fierce. This means that it’s more likely that you’ll find yourself working in the public sector, though it can vary depending on your personal situation.

How Generous is Healthcare Spending?

Once again Singapore is unique in the way it funds healthcare. Unlike many other countries no medical service is provided in Singapore free of charge. A nationalised health insurance scheme called ‘Medisave’ is operated and, under this, employees contribute between 8 and 10% of their salary every month to their account. The savings accumulated in this account can then be used to pay for treatment for the employee and their immediate family.

Patient care is subsidised by the government, but this subsidy is means tested depending on the wealth of the individual. The figure rises from a 50% subsidy for citizens (40% for permanent residents) to 80% (or 70% for permanent residents). Non permanent residents need private insurance and cover, as they don’t receive any subsidy. Often this is provided by a resident’s employers.

This system should ensure that healthcare in the country is never underfunded, but also that everyone has access to services within their financial reach. Whilst evidently different to almost anywhere else in the world, it is hugely effective.

According to Bloomberg it is the world’s most efficient healthcare system, and it is renowned worldwide as one of the most successful.

In the public sector senior consultants can expect to earn up to S$300,000 (about £165,000) whilst consultants wages normally peak at S$200,000 (£110,000) and associate consultants can expect to earn up to S$150,000 (£83,000).

The wages in the private sector are far more varied, and can rise often towards the S$400,000 mark for senior consultants with experience in sought after hospitals.

Income tax rates in Singapore differ greatly from those in the UK. For non-residents the rate is currently 15% of your gross income - including any further bonuses or payments - or 22% of your net income. This is often less than half of what would be paid in the UK and should all but cover the increased cost of living in Singapore.

It is the cost of living that turns many people off the idea of moving to the country. Alcoholic drinks and private cars are dramatically more expensive as a result of heavy taxation laws, whilst the property market (particularly around the Marina) is more akin to central London than a British suburb.

Many employers will often also provide a ‘cost of living adaption’ into their salary package - an extra cash incentive to help you deal with the increase in the cost of living in the country.

What will I need?

If a move is something you are seriously considering, then it could be time to evaluate how realistic your chances are.

In order to gain employment you will firstly need to have either American board certification, your CCST or be included in the GMC specialist register with Western qualifications. For consultancy roles normally 5 years experience is seen as the minimum accepted, although occasionally they will accept specialists with less than this depending on other experience they may have - and the needs of the organisation you are applying to join.

The immigration process is managed by the Ministry of Manpower and the work permit that immigrants are awarded will be dependant on their salary and qualifications. Most medical professionals moving to the country will be awarded at least a P2 pass, given to those earning between $3500 and $7000 per month, with some granted a P1 for those earning $7000+ per month and with suitable qualifications.

Jobs are open up fairly regularly, however the demand is not as large, or as consistent, as it is in the Gulf. On top of this competition can be extremely fierce, and so you should ensure that your CV is as polished as it could possibly be in order to maximise your chances of getting a role.

Who is Especially in Demand?

Although Singapore is a relatively unpolluted city, its neighbours still practice ‘slash and burn’ agriculture, and this can create plenty of openings for pulmonologists in the country. Asthma, COPD and other lung conditions are all common, meaning that the demand for respiratory specialists is unlikely to get any lower.

High levels of diabetes are also continuing to blight the health of the population, and so endocrinologists remain in demand. The case is the same for ophthalmologists due to the high levels of eyesight issues, mainly in children of Chinese origin.

Singapore is an incredible country, with a remarkable amount to offer an expat medic looking to take their skills overseas. For more information, and for job alerts, register on our website today. A dream move could be closer than you might imagine.

Start your journey today by registering on our website.