Singapore vs Dubai: Which is a better choice for expats?

Singapore and Dubai are two of the top expat destinations in recent years. Comparably similar, both are small, cosmopolitan cities with prosperous economies despite lack of natural resources. Both cities are bustling with city life and have a pool of international residents along with their respective cultures. However, both cities have strict laws and lack press freedom.

Below are 5 factors to compare both cities.

  1. Climate: Both cities have hot weather in general. While it is dry in Dubai due to its desert climate, tropical Singapore is humid due to high moisture levels due to heavy rainfall and lots of sunshine all year round. Dubai has two seasons – winter and summer, where winters are comfortable and summers unbearably hot. Singapore has lots of sunshine and rain all year round, however, heavy rain and cool weather is expected from December to March and June to September. Expats who are used to living with four seasons may find it difficult to adjust to Singapore or Dubai’s climate.
  2. Lifestyle & Cost of Living: Both cities have the option for an affluent lifestyle. In Dubai, living this affluent lifestyle is expected while in Singapore, options are open for anyone to pick and choose. There are certain necessities that can make living in Singapore expensive, for example, property, cars, and international school fees. However, public transportation, local food, and consumer products like electronics are affordable. Dubai is not listed as one of the expensive cities for expats to live in and salaries are slightly higher in Dubai than in Singapore. Daily living costs are cheaper in Dubai. However, expats can get caught up in the affluent lifestyle in Dubai, which might reduce their chances to save money and build their future.
  3. Job Opportunities: Both cities have competitive job markets due to their diversified economies. While Dubai has a wider variety of jobs from labourers to desk-bound jobs, Singapore’s job market is very targeted for foreigners. Singapore focuses on a few specific sectors to fill up the gap in workforce. For example, the local workforce is not skilled in construction and laborious work, so Singapore brings in people from India, Bangladesh, and China to fill this gap. As Singapore looks to transition into future economies, top sectors currently are advanced manufacturing and technology.
  4. Business Environment: Singapore is known for having one of the best business landscapes in the world. Setting up a business can be easily done online and takes an average of 1.5 days in Singapore while it takes 3.5 days in Dubai. Due to its strict sharia law, It will take longer for women to set up a company. As a foreigner, opening a company in Dubai also requires a local partner who will hold 51% of the company’s shares. In Singapore, the company is 100% owned by the foreign business owner but he will need to assign a local nominee director.
  5. Financial Benefits: Salaries are comparable in both cities. While Singapore boasts low income tax, expats don’t have to pay any income tax at all in Dubai, making take home salaries higher in Dubai than in Singapore. 

Verdict: Singapore or Dubai?

With Singapore’s declining birth rate and ageing population, the government has been emphasising the need for people. This makes Singapore a good country to live in long-term, especially if you intend to build a family, career, and business. Singapore’s frameworks are built for these. Dubai is suitable for single expats who want to build their fortunes quickly but long-term stay might not be comfortable.

Understanding its need to grow the economy and cover the gap in its workforce, Singapore has been growing its population size for many years. By the 2000s, the immigrant population in Singapore had surpassed the natural growth of the local population. It has been steadily increasing since then to the current around 1.3 million foreigners living in Singapore. However, the Singapore government emphasises on protecting the Singaporean core. Singapore’s population is, therefore, organic and immigrants who come to work and live in the country have to assimilate to the local cultures and social norms. 

Singapore takes advantage of its location and climate to brand itself as a Garden City where tropical flora and fauna naturally thrives and can beautify the country. Dubai, on the other hand, builds malls, tall skyscrapers, and man-made islands in the middle of a desert. 


The decision between living and working in Singapore or Dubai is a highly debated subject amongst expats. It all boils down to individual preferences, lifestyle, and goals. 

Foreigners who want to live in Singapore long-term, contact Immigration@SG (IASG) at +65 6493 1830

A one-stop immigration consultancy firm, IASG helps individuals and businesses set up base in Singapore via Singapore Permanent Residency application, Singapore Citizenship application, Work Pass application, Business Incorporation, setting up Single Family Office, investing in Singapore via the Global Investor Programme, and relocation services.