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Southeast Asia Software Developer Salary Showdown: Who Comes Out on Top?

Figure 1. Southeast Asia Software Developer Salary Showdown: Who Comes Out on Top?

Software development has quickly become one of the most in-demand fields in the world, with companies of all sizes and industries in need of talented developers to serve as business enablers.

As the cost of living continues to rise in many Western countries, more and more companies are looking to outsource their software development needs to brilliant performers in Southeast Asian countries where the cost of living is significantly lower. Here, we will take a closer look at the software developer salary and cost of living in this region.

Programmer salary and expenses

1. Singapore

Figure 2. Singapore

Singapore is known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world, with a high cost of living that is 1.2 times more expensive than the United States according to the world’s largest cost of living database Numbeo. However, with its highly-developed infrastructure, advanced technology, English-speaking population, and high GDP (Gross Domestic Product), Singapore is also the country that offers the highest salaries for developers in Southeast Asia.

The latest report from the prestige recruitment company JT1 finds that the average software developer salary in Singapore is between $55 to $65 per hour. Programmers working here may enjoy an efficient public transportation system, a highly-regarded healthcare system, and a multicultural society with diverse experiences.

(Source: 2023 Vietnam IT Salary Guide by JT1)

2. Malaysia

Figure 3. Malaysia

Malaysia is a Southeast Asian country that offers a low cost of living compared to some other countries in the region, where $1 can go a long way. Number of cites that the cost of living is 0.48 times lower than in the United States. The country has a vibrant culture with a mix of Muslim, Chinese, and Indian influences, as well as a range of outdoor activities to enjoy.

According to JT1, the hourly pay for software engineers in Malaysia is between $30 - $59. On the one hand, this figure does not compete with those in Singapore; but on the other hand, it is worth noting that the living cost in Malaysia is also lower. This means a programmer (entry, junior or senior) could still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without any financial worries, especially in larger cities like Kuala Lumpur.

3. The Philippines

Figure 4. The Philippines

The Philippines may not be as well-known as other Southeast Asian countries, but it has a thriving software development industry, with many multinational companies outsourcing their development needs to this country. The cost of living here is known to be affordable, 0.46 times lower than in the United States.

JT1 reveals that the average programmer salary in the Philippines ranges between $28 to $42 per year. The cost of living here is cheaper than in some other Southeast Asian countries, thus giving developers greater purchasing power for everyday essentials, housing, transportation, and more.

4. Vietnam

Figure 5. Vietnam’s outsourcing success gives it an edge as large corporations like Microsoft, IBM, and Intel continue to scale up their investment in the country. (Source: Global Services Location Index)

Vietnam is quickly becoming “a small but mighty outsourcing powerhouse in the Asia-Pacific" thanks to its rapidly growing tech industry and its low wage compared to other countries. The cost of living is 0.49 times lower than that of the US and the average salary for software developers here ranges between $25 to $35 per hour. It is reported by JT1 that Vietnam’s software development outsourcing cost is around 90% lower compared to hiring the U.S. labor force. The saving is 50% versus China and 30% versus India.

Together with crave-worthy food, coffee culture, popular co-working spaces, and iconic tourist sites, Vietnam is where you can enjoy the life you want.

Figure 6. A sample monthly budget for two middle-class persons living in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi known as Vietnam’s largest cities (Source: International Living Magazine)

5. Indonesia

Figure 7. Indonesia

Indonesia is home to the fourth-largest population in the world and a growing tech community, especially in its capital city, Jakarta. The cost of living here is low compared to the United States - 0.43 times lower according to Numbeo. This makes Indonesia an attractive option for developers who are willing to enjoy new experiences in a country that is home to many islands, as well as beaches, mountains, and tropical forests.

According to JT1, the average salary for software programmers in Indonesia ranges from $25 to $49 per hour. That being said, the wages vary widely depending on the level of experience and expertise, with developers with significant skill and experience receiving significantly higher compensation.

6. Thailand

Figure 8. Thailand

Thailand boasts a cost of living that is 0.56 times lower than the United States according to Numbeo. The country has been a popular destination for many ex-pats due to its colorful culture, exciting nightlife, and delicious food. Thailand has a thriving tourism industry and a blossoming economy, which makes it an interesting choice for developers with an adventurous spirit. According to JT1, the hourly pay for software engineers here ranges between $31.8 to $53.

Software developer salary and cost of living in Southeast Asia: A comparison

Figure 9. Software developer salary and cost of living in Southeast Asia: A comparison

1. Average salary of software developers

The average salary of a software developer is a crucial indicator for evaluating the earning potential of developers in a specific location. JT1’s report shows that the average salary for software developers in Singapore is the highest, followed by Thailand and Malaysia. The pay range for Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines are relatively lower.

2. Cost of living in each country

The cost of living in a specific country determines how far one's income can stretch on daily essentials such as food, housing, transportation, and healthcare. According to Numbeo, Singapore and Thailand has the highest costs of living. Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam are found to provide the most significant cost-of-living advantage.

3. Purchasing power of developers

Purchasing power indicates how many goods and services an individual can afford based on their gross salary after adjusting for cost-of-living differences. Based on the cost of living and average software engineer salaries provided by Numbeo and JT1, purchasing power is highest for developers working in Vietnam and Indonesia.

Here's a general comparison of salary and expenses for software developers in Southeast Asian countries:


Hourly software development cost

Cost of living compared to the U.S


$55 - $65



$30 - $59



$28 - $42



$25 - $35



$25 - $49



$31,8 - $53


Note that these figures are just averages and can vary depending on factors such as work experience, skillset, income tax, healthcare, housing costs, and location within each country.

Final words

Southeast Asia is increasingly becoming an attractive destination for software developers looking for good compensation and a relatively low cost of living. While the comparison may vary depending on the specific location, the data presented above can be a valuable reference to understand the dynamics of the software development industry in the region.

Southeast Asia presents a promising technology market and has attracted numerous global companies to venture into this industry. To gain a deeper understanding of the tech scene in Asia, please do not hesitate to contact JT1. We are here to provide valuable insights and assist you in exploring the tech opportunities in Southeast Asia.


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