According to the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom, Singapore boasts an impressive economic freedom score of 84.4 – making it one of the freest economies in the world, according to The Fraser Institute. On top of that, the Garden City has re-emerged from the devastating effects of the pandemic as a key Asian hub for various industries such as life science & healthcare and finance & banking.
All of this points to the fact that a ton of business opportunities will be arising in this island-nation. What’s also more encouraging for businesses and jobseekers is that unemployment rates have fallen below pre-pandemic levels as more job openings crop up. The demand for industries that have been hit the hardest such as tourism and F&B has also rapidly increased with time.
On that note, let’s look at the top profitable business industries in Singapore for 2023.
1. Supply Chain & Manufacturing
Did you know that the manufacturing industry makes up 20% – 25% of Singapore’s GDP each year – making it the country’s biggest business? Although Singapore had just reopened its borders in early 2022, that same year saw the industry’s biggest growth. The first 8 months itself saw a 4.4% year-on-year growth compared to 2021.
2023 is expected to bring about even better prospects for the manufacturing industry, largely due to the boom in the e-commerce sector which will see e-commerce sales reach $19.6 billion by 2027, according to a Straits Times article. Another major driving factor is that Singapore has invested in new supply chain infrastructure such as the Tuas mega port and Terminal 5 at Changi Airport to improve supply chain logistics.
Singapore’s Education Minister, Chan Chu Sing, mentioned during the Supply Chain Asia Forum 2022 that the country will have to focus more on new technologies such as 3D printing and digital manufacturing to be more efficient – especially as it transitions out of a post-pandemic world.
2. Tourism & Aviation
Between September to November 2022, Singapore welcomed around 800,000 visitors a month – a whopping 2.4 million travellers in total.
With China’s borders being open since January 2023 and more tourists being able to travel to Singapore, the nation’s tourism industry is expected to see growth by leaps and bounds. In fact, an article by The News Straits Times Malaysia stated that compared to other Asian countries, Singapore was one of the top countries to benefit in terms of tourism from China’s reopening. In pre-pandemic times, specifically in 2019, China was the largest source of tourists to Singapore, with over 3.75 million visitors that year.
As the tourism and aviation industries go hand in hand, many of the business opportunities that crop up in tourism will be seen in aviation as well. In 2023, there is also expected to be a higher demand for talent in the aviation industry. A Malay Mail news article reported that many aviation staff in Singapore were now returning to their previous jobs – however, a large chunk had remained in the jobs they took up during the pandemic, such as in healthcare. This meant that there were more shoes left to fill in the aviation sector amidst the increasing number of flights in and out of Singapore.
In late March 2022, Singapore’s Transport Minister announced that Singapore will be home to the regional aviation safety centre for APAC. The centre will place a strong focus on “how best to recruit and train pilots to meet a rising demand for competent air crew”.
3. Telehealth Services
Another top profitable business this year will be telehealth services. As mentioned earlier, Singapore is an Asian hub for life science and healthcare, and this will remain the case even in a post-pandemic world. Singapore has the right infrastructure, facilities and technology for medical developments that are non-Covid related, proving it will remain relevant for years to come.
Telehealth, in particular, will see apparent growth due to its convenience factor. But more than that, what will make it stand out is that it minimises direct contact between doctor and patient – effectively saving more time all while getting medical consultations at one’s fingertips.
4. Banking & Crypto
In the Banking, Finance and Accounting industry, digitisation is what is expected to boost the market’s development. This will be especially true in Singapore’s case, given that it has the highest average transaction value for digital payments in Southeast Asia. The nation is also among the most advanced nations in terms of adopting cashless payments in the region.
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When it comes to crypto, while there was a global slowdown in 2022, crypto/blockchain was the top fintech investment in Singapore that year. In 2022, fintech investments grew by 22%, reaching $4.1 billion – the highest in 3 years. What’s also interesting is that in 2022, more than 4 out of 10 Singaporeans used metaverse-related tech such as crypto and NFTs; a sign that that crypto & blockchain is becoming an increasingly popular business in Singapore.
Singapore’s Monetary Authority has also allowed blockchain platforms such as Paxos to operate in the country. Paxos has said that it has plans to hire a minimum of 130 new staff over the course o f the next 3 years.
Overall, the banking and finance industry is expected to grow at 4-5% per annum from 2021 to 2025, according to the Monetary Association of Singapore. The Singapore government also plans to create 3,000 to 4,000 net jobs on average each year. To top it off, job opportunities will keep cropping up with Singapore’s ONE Pass, which is expected to draw in more talent from top industries including banking and finance.
5. e-Commerce Logistics
E-commerce saw a decline in early 2023, as online retail sales dropped by 0.5% in January – largely due to more cautious consumer spending that came with the GST hike which started that month. At the same time, in January 2023, the government gave each household a S$300 Community Development Council voucher to soften the blow of the GST increase. This comes under the $1.5 billion Support Package announced in October 2022.
These initiatives, together with the e-commerce infrastructure that the government has invested in is expected to help e-commerce and e-commerce logistics recover swiftly. Singapore’s e-commerce logistics industry is slated to generate USD ~2 billion by 2026, also thanks to better access to e-commerce platforms and the emergence of new players.
In terms of how much it will grow, we’re looking at ~14% CAGR over the forecasted period 2021-2026, largely owing to the rise in high consumer appetite and heavy investment in technological advancements in the country.
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