An expat? You'll get the fattest packages here

Japan takes top spot for overseas pay
Japan takes top spot for overseas pay

Not only does Japan offer expatriates a cultural adventure, thriving culinary scene and top-notch infrastructure but also the heftiest benefit packages in the region, according to a new survey.

The value of a typical expatriate pay package for middle managers in Japan amounts to $375,289 per year on average, ECA International's annual MyExpatriate Market Pay Survey, released on Thursday, showed.

Expatriate pay packages factor in three main elements: salary, benefits – such as accommodation, international schools, utilities or cars – and tax.

Japan continues to top the ranking because of lofty income tax rates and the high cost of benefits in the country, said Lee Quane, regional director, Asia at human resources consultant ECA International.

"It's not necessarily that companies need to provide more benefits in Japan, as it is the costs associated with the benefits such as housing, education and transportation, are higher than elsewhere," he told CNBC.

After Japan, the value of expat packages was highest in Australia, India, China and Hong Kong, respectively.

While the top five countries remained unchanged from last year, Quane says one notable shift that has taken place in recent years is that expats are able to obtain bigger packages in China compared with Hong Kong.

A total package for an expatriate middle manager in mainland China is worth around $276,400, compared with $271,400 in Hong Kong.

"Previously, China ranked below Hong Kong, but in the past couple of years, it has overtaken Hong Kong due to a few factors," said Quane. "Benefits costs have increased – medical insurance costs for example are amongst the highest in the world. Also because of issues such as pollution, companies are needing to increase incentives, particularly to senior level staff," he added.

Not all Chinese cities require such high packages, though. The cost of benefits provision in tier-2 locations is still much lower than in tier-1 cities and if those cities.

The key to landing a package

It may have become difficult to land an expat package since the global financial crisis as corporations look to cut costs, but Quane says they are by no means a thing of the past.

It all boils down to your seniority, criticality to the firm and the location of your posting, he said.

"Going by geography there are certain locations where even junior level staff will get packages, for example, Malaysia or Pakistan," he said.

However, in cities such as Singapore or Hong Kong, where enough expats are willing to relocate to, getting the extra benefits is tougher.

"In such locations, it's common for expats to be offered the same terms as a local national," he said.