Health Tourism

Health Tourism

Social Welfare through International Trade

David Reisman

In this unique and pathbreaking book, David Reisman examines the relatively new phenomenon of health travel. He presents a multidisciplinary account of the way in which lower costs, shorter waiting times, different services, and the chance to combine recreational tourism with a check-up or an operation all come together to make medical travel a new industry with the potential to create jobs and wealth, while at the same time giving sick people high-quality care at an affordable price.

Chapter 9: The Singapore Experience

David Reisman

Subjects: economics and finance, health policy and economics, welfare economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, health policy and economics


Medical tourism in Asia generated revenues of US$3.4 billion in 2007. It accounted for 12.7 per cent of health-tourism exports worldwide. Already attracting 1.6 million health tourists a year, health tourism in Asia is growing annually at the rate of 20 to 30 per cent (Velasco, 2008: 13, 15). Revenues are likely to be in excess of US$4.4 billion by 2012 (USA Today, 2006). The market leaders are Thailand, India and Singapore. Other countries active in the Asian market are Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. This chapter takes the example of Singapore to show what being a health care hub can mean on the ground. 9.1 THE SERVICE SECTOR Singapore is a small city-State situated about 85 miles north of the equator. Its population is only 4.99 million. Its land area is 692.1 square kilometres. Singapore is an open economy. The ratio of trade (exports plus imports) to GDP, at 360 per cent, is probably the highest in the world. Its balance of payments is almost always in surplus. Yet Singapore is a high-wage economy. Hourly compensation for manufacturing labour in Singapore stood at US$8.35 in 2007. In the United States the equivalent average was US$24.59. In Japan it was US$19.75. In Denmark it was US$42.29. Production workers’ pay in Singapore was only 34 per cent of the equivalent level in the United States. It is no cause for complacency. Production workers were paid only US$6.58 in Taiwan, US$5.78 in Hong Kong,...

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