What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

February 21, 2011

Cost of living and salary in Animation in Singapore.

DISCLAIMER : Most of these notes are gathered from my personal experiences as well as observation and talking to students, ex students and friends. It is not based on published facts or figures. All comments are my own rough gauge. I will not be responsible for you do not land a job here or you end up giving up a comfy job overseas because overquote or underquote a starting pay because of what I posted here.

In recent months I saw a rise in the number of people from Malaysia, Indonesia and the States on the blog looking at this post.

I bet this is a interesting topic for some people who are thinking of working in Singapore. Especially students from nearby countries who want to consider working in Singapore after graduation.

Also I have talked to some guys who came over from the States and also UK to work locally. And the most shocking aspect of it was how expensive it was to live in Singapore compared to the States or UK.

So I think it will be a appropriate post to write for those that is considering coming over to Singapore. I suppose the big studios won't be happy about it. But being in the same shoe before, from a fellow artiste to another, I think you should know about a few facts locally that you probably never consider.

Lets start with salary on the lower scale. If you are a fresh graduate, regardless of degree or diploma. You are looking at a starting pay of about S$1600-S$2500 or about S$90-S$120 a day of work. (Hours can range from 8-12 hours a day).

Look at here from last year's survey based on graduates from one of the local Universities that offer animation as a degree.

That is actually on the higher end of the scale. Of course for the fresh grad, if you can get above S$3k, you will laughing. Although I have hear of people getting paid S$1.2k a month. And you will be competing against a lot of other regional artistes with a few years of experience working for the same types of job. There is a huge income gap. And you will need to secure a work visa.

For the industry pros that is thinking of coming here, the good thing is income tax is low. About 10-12 percent. Food is cheap if you eat like a local at the food centres and food stalls. There are other stuff like CPF which I am unclear about if you have to pay and really cant be bothered to explain here. You can read more here.

Understand that the majority of work being done here is sub contracted work because of govt subsidy. So adjust your expectation accordingly.

The major cost expenditure is RENT. It is a killer. To rent an unfurnished 2 bed rm apartment in the current climate starts around S$2.4-2.8k a month. And this is about within approx a 20km radius of the city central. And it goes up the nearer you are to the city. Have a look at the local property websites for a estimate.

The other problem is if you have a family. School fees for kids in international schools can range up to S$20-30k a year. And the insurance cover the company gives you will not cover them at all.

Medical is actually decent for common aliment like flu and cough etc.. About S$30-$50. Again more info here.

Food is expensive only if you dine out in restaurants and cafes. Groceries are more expensive then some countries because we import everything.

And booze is really expensive. A bottle of stella is about S$14.00. And shots start at S$10.00. Singapore is a expensive place to have a good time.

Finally the mexican food is actually fairly decent in 2 places. Nothing too fantastic. But very expensive. Would you pay S$25++ for a burrito?

UPDATE 31/5/13 : The starting entry level jobs like rotoscoping have been revised downwards to an average of $1.2k. (which really really sucks). But that seems to the trend happening as the grunt work moves out towards other parts of Asia. And salary across the industry have been going down or being static. There have been closure of CG companies and depts as well as people being let go in the last year. So there are a lot of people out there with experience hunting for jobs. The good news is the demand for quality cg artists are still strong. So your showreel is really good and/or have a good experience amd reputation, it is still possible to get a good package out there.

There is already a emergence of many small cg companies catering to the ad agencies and post houses. A lot started up by cg artists with a few years of experience.

UPDATE 2/2/17 : The entry level jobs have actually increased up to $2.3k for locals. Foreign fresh grads actually are also on that price range provided they can get a employment pass. The closure of D Neg have actually made a lot their former local artists movingoverseas and local companies have had to increase salary to get competent artist in for projects. But contract jobs are still the norm. There has been more small games companies opening shop here.


  1. I am currently 31 years old with 8 years of experience under my belt. I've been lucky enough to live in 7 countries and 10 cities so far throughout the Eastern and Western world. According to my first hand experience, Singapore is not expensive. In fact it is extremely cheap, try living in London where I am currently living. Income tax is 40% and VAT or GST is 20%. And no, the pay is not that great in London.

  2. No arguments there. Income tax is crazy in London. And so is the rent and food.

    If you are flat sharing in Singapore and eat like a local and not consume lots of alcohol with no kids, you will save up a fair bit here. But I think a lot of guys come over here and get shocked by the cost of living compared to their perceived cost of living.


  3. I think it depends on the type of lifestyle you want to lead. But I'm still a little disturbed by the fact that they disregard your qualifications (degree/diploma), I mean, if you get to that point, it must tell them something about you, so why the same pay as someone without it? Just curious.

    1. Because in the eyes of the companies, qualification does not matter as much as what you have in your portafolio or showreel. Of course having higher learning might mean you are better educated or that you are better at memorising then drawing.

    2. It's more relevant to the job I guess. Thank you for answering. Sometimes, it just feels like the companies are taking advantage of animators. But taking subjects at a degree level doesn't involve a lot of memorizing, there's more focus on critical thinking, problem solving and application. Memorizing is easy, too easy actually.

  4. For me, critical thinking and problem solving plays a huge part in cultivating the mindset of a degree in arts. Especially in arts. Where the justification of a idea, the ability to express the concept and problem solve a design issue are the key difference between someone who is just a button pusher and someone who is actually a artiste.